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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC-CHAD: UN Security Council pursues UN force option

New York , 10 January 2007 (IRIN) - United Nations Security Council members emerged from a lengthy meeting on Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Darfur on Wednesday, agreeing by consensus to send a new technical assessment mission to Chad and CAR “as quickly as possible” according to current Council president, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

“They are going to look into the possibility of deploying a UN peace mission,” said Churkin, who declined to give details about a future peacekeeping force. “We should keep working deliberately and consistently in this direction…this is the aim of the Security Council.”

The Council action, which does not need the consent of the UN Secretary-General, runs counter to the last report on the situation in Chad filed by outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the end of December.

That report said that a UN force deployed to Chad and CAR would take “considerable risks,” as “the conditions for an effective United Nations peacekeeping operation do not…seem to be in place.”

However, South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said he was very concerned about the people in the region. “The civilians are dying. They are telling us that the situation is deteriorating, so we would like to see some action happen for the sake of the people who are suffering,” he said.

“I think we have to move because the people are suffering. I mean, we as Africans feel it even more,” he added.

Other Council members also expressed frustration that this issue had not been dealt with in a timely manner, said Churkin. One reason for the delay was that widespread insecurity had prevented the previous technical assessment team, deployed last year, from visiting northeastern CAR and eastern Chad.

Civilians in Chad have suffered from persistent attacks by armed militias in the east of the country, along the volatile border with Darfur, since 2005. Last year, fighting between government and rebel forces was exacerbated after high-ranking military officers joined rebel forces after Chadian President Idriss Deby amended the constitution to run for a third term.

Churkin told reporters after the closed-door briefing by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi that all factors would have to be considered, including the situation on the ground, but “our goal is a peacekeeping mission.”

While previous estimates indicate 2,500 peacekeepers would be sufficient for a Chadian-CAR operation, the Russian ambassador gave no indication of the composition of troops.

Council members will have to wait to receive concrete recommendations from the team before making troop commitments. One nation had already indicated it would be willing to send troops, Churkin told reporters.

One problem that is sure to arise if a UN force is approved is whether or not there will be any countries willing to contribute troops to such a volatile region.

Annan’s report stated that any “United Nations force would be operating in the midst of continuing hostilities and would have no clear exit strategy.” Another issue is whether troops for the region will come out of those earmarked for Darfur, or whether a new force contingent will be needed.

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Theme (s): Conflict,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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