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UN Officials Prepare for Mission to West Africa - 2003-05-13


The United Nations Security Council takes up conflicts in Ivory Coast and the Congo just days before council members leave on a mission to West Africa. The council is expected to vote on a resolution on Ivory Coast Tuesday.

The Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution that will create a new U.N. mission in Ivory Coast, called MINUCI (U.N. Mission in Cote d'Ivoire), following the recent upsurge of violence in the West African nation. The mission aims to save a fragile peace agreement, and prevent the conflict from further threatening the region.

British Ambassador to the United Nations Jeremy Greenstock says the unarmed mission will act as a liason with French peacekeepers, regional peacekeeping forces from the Economic Community of West African States and Ivorian troops.

"We are creating MINUCI in the form of around 75 military officers to back up the special representative, form liason groups with all the forces who are active on the ground in Cote D'Ivoire and produce a kernel, a core of U.N. military advice, monitoring and other deterrent activity to make sure that peace wins over war," says Mr. Greenstock.

Mr. Greenstock will lead a Security Council mission, which is visiting Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia (May 15 to May 23). The British ambassador warns that the fighting in Liberia and neighboring Ivory Coast is creating deteriorating humanitarian conditions and a fragile political situation.

Last week, the Security Council passed a resolution renewing sanctions against Liberia.

Security Council members are also voicing increasing concern about the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where U.N. officials say ethnic Hema militias have taken control of the eastern town of Bunia in the Ituri Province.

In a statement, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the U.N. mission headquarters in Bunia, which is providing shelter to thousands of civilians, has come under recent attack by militias, and he expressed concern that the situation in Bunia will "spin out of control," leading to a massive killing of civilians.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Williamson, representative for special political affairs, says the United States worries about the "ethnic dimension" to the fighting, and has pledged $250,000 to the Ituri Pacification Commission to help reach a political solution to the crisis. "The U.S. government is concerned at the highest levels about the violence in Ituri Province in the Eastern Congo, especially because of the ethnic component," he says. "The U.S. is providing some more resources to the pacification commission and is looking forward to some action to try to get better control of the situation."

U.N. Secretary General Annan called on the Ugandan government to use its influence over militia forces in Ituri Province to maintain calm, and urged the international community to prevent a "dire situation."

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