BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Freetown
"The paras are making their presence felt"
 real 28k

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh, High Commissioner to Britain
"We expect the British to assist in securing the capital"
 real 28k

Goeff Hoon, UK Defence Secretary
"They will not be engaged in combat on behalf of the United Nations"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
UK shuns Sierra Leone call to arms
Peacekeepers went in after last year's peace deal
The UK has rejected calls from Sierra Leone to commit combat troops to enforce peace in the West African country.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said Britain did not have the resources to get involved in every international crisis.

There are limits to how many different engagements around the world we can be involved in.

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
Mr Hoon turned down a plea by Sierra Leone Information Minister Julius Spencer, who urged Britain to contribute "men and materials" to a United Nations force.

The country has been in crisis for most of this year, since a peace deal between the government and rebel forces fell apart.

The deal, in July last year, was supposed to have put an end to one of the most brutal wars in African history, but instead, hundreds of UN peacekeepers have been taken hostage.

Rebels of the Sierra Leone Revolutionary United Front are holding up to 500 UN peacekeepers.

'Evacuation job'

Mr Spencer complained that the UK was not doing enough to end the violence in its former colony.

He said British military intervention would bring a swift end to the crisis.

Thousands of people have been mutilated in the war
But Mr Hoon said the hundreds of troops sent to airlift Britons and other nationals from the country were there only for that purpose.

He said: "British troops were sent there to do a specific job, which was obviously to assist in the evacuation. That's why they were sent there, that's the job they will continue to do.

"There are limits to how many different engagements around the world we can be involved in."

The UN peacekeeping force is 3,000 men short of its mandated strength of 11,100.

But neither Britain nor fellow Security Council members the United States, Russia, China and France have responded to UN calls for a rapid-reaction force.

Airlifts offer

Mr Spencer accused the UK of "major discrimination" against African countries over peacekeeping.

Aid by air: Britain's support has continued
He told the BBC: "The Sierra Leone public expect much more than what the British seem to be giving. It is disturbing for us because it seems like there is indeed some major discrimination in the way world peace is being kept when it comes to African countries."

UK ministers have repeatedly said the British paratroopers in Freetown will not become combat troops.

They have secured Lungi airport in the capital Freetown and airlifted out 300 people.

Defence chiefs said they were making further evacuation flights available, but that so far there were few takers.

The UK Government has committed more than 65m to Sierra Leone since March 1998, including 14m for the Government of Sierra Leone's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

14 Mar 00 | Africa
Sierra Leone rebels thwart UN
08 Jul 99 | Sierra Leone
Special report: Sierra Leone's civil war
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories