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UN Security Council Calls for Congo Elections to be Held on Time

While on a tour of Africa's Great Lakes region, ambassadors from the UN Security Council have called on the Congolese authorities, as well as the international community, to work harder to ensure next year's elections are held on time. Political leaders in the vast country reconfirmed their commitment to hold elections, though doubts are increasing that they can be held in seven months time, as originally planned.

After a marathon day of talks with Congo's president, its four vice presidents and other top officials who make up the country's post-war political leadership, the UN Security Council said there was no alternative but to hold elections in June next year.

At a news conference in Kinshasa, Jean Marc de la Sabliere, France's ambassador to the UN, called on the Congo's leaders, as well as the international community, to work harder to ensure the polls are held on time.

The ambassador said that all the Congolese that the Security Council had spoken with expressed their determination to hold the polls on time.

The U.N. appeal comes as speculation is mounting that there is still too much to be done and too little time for the elections to be organized in a country the size of Western Europe.

Congo is emerging from a five year war that sucked in six neighboring countries, divided the nation and killed three million people, mostly from hunger and disease.

Former belligerents have joined a transitional government in Kinshasa and most of the fighting has ended. But a lack of trust among the political leaders, many of whom still try and maintain the political and economic control they enjoyed during the war, has stalled the peace process.

Two coup attempts and a fresh rebellion in the east of the country this year highlighted the fragility of Congo's peace.

Mr. de la Sabliere picked out army and police reform, as well as the long list of laws that need to be passed through parliament and the drafting of a new constitution as areas of particular urgency.

While calling for the Congolese to ensure the elections are held on time, the UN said it would continue to support the peace process. Proof of the UN's commitment, it added, was the imminent arrival of some six thousand extra peacekeepers, making the Congo mission the largest in the world.

There are almost 11-hundred U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo, but the size of the country means the peacekeeping operation is stretched thin. The force has been criticised for not doing enough to impose peace, and it has also been plagued by cases of sexual misconduct by its staff.