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Security Council Members Urge Continued International Support for Peacekeepers in DRC - 2003-07-19


Security Council members expressed support Friday for a new transitional government in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo while urging continued international support for peacekeepers to help restore security.

Although rebel leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo refused to take the oath of office Thursday, many diplomats participating in an open Security Council session Friday praised the newly elected transitional government.

"The United States welcomes the inauguration of the transitional government in the Democratic Republic of Congo and agree that this is an extremely important and vital step towards unifying the DRC, ending five years of war and launching the country on a democratic path," said U.S. ambassador John Negroponte.

But diplomats and U.N. officials also stressed the challenges that lie ahead and future needs in restoring security.

The Security Council is considering a draft resolution, presented by France, to bolster United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC (U.N. Organization Mission in the DRC) in the Congo, particularly the troubled Ituri region. The plan calls for increasing the number of existing United Nations troops to more than 10,000. They would replace the French-led multi-national force that has helped restore calm to Bunia, the site of recent massacres. The aim is to prevent a security gap after the armed, predominately European troops depart in September.

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said the additional U.N. peacekeepers, primarily from Bangladesh, are necessary for the Congolese peace process to take root.

"The need on the first of September for the multi-national force in Bunia to be effectively replaced has probably increased awareness of the importance of strengthening MONUC," he said. "The draft resolution, which we shall shortly be adopting, will give it a more robust mandate and increase its personnel, particularly in Ituri where 3,800 men will be deployed with the appropriate equipment pursuant to the recommendations of the secretary-general."

The Security Council is expected to vote on the French-draft resolution by the end of the month. The United States reportedly supports increasing the U.N. mandate after the multi-national troops leave. But before the United States can approve the Security Council measure and contribute funds to the operation, it must receive the go-ahead from the U.S. Congress.

NEB/NYC/JB/BJS/PT

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