The U.N. Security Council has ordered the temporary transfer of additional troops to Ivory Coast to assist peacekeeping forces in the country. The personnel will stay until the end of March. The move came hours before targeted sanctions are due to take effect on political leaders seen as obstacles to peace.
The Security Council has unanimously agreed to redeploy a mechanized infantry unit from the U.N. mission in Liberia to Ivory Coast. The company of 200 Nigerian peacekeepers will provide extra security for U.N. personnel and property.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the Council last week to dispatch approximately 1,000 soldiers and policemen to Ivory Coast to help defend against an outbreak of anti-U.N. violence.
But the chairman of the Council's Ivory Coast Sanctions Committee, Greece's U.N. ambassador, Adamantios Vassilakis, said countries such as the United States, which pays 27 percent of the peacekeeping budget, thought the secretary-general's request was too large. "Some member states that you know have always problems with the expansion of the peacekeeping operations, and you have to find the right balance in order to get to the consensus," he said.
Anti-U.N. violence erupted in Ivory Coast last month. The Security Council threatened sanctions against two militant youth leaders, loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo, along with a commander of rebel forces in the north of the country. Those sanctions, including a travel ban and assets freeze, are due to take effect Tuesday. Some officials fear there could be another outbreak of violence.
After Monday's vote to send reinforcements, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere expressed confidence that necessary precautions had been taken to protect the U.N. force, known as UNOCI. "I think the U.N. is right in taking precautions, but I don't think something will happen on the ground. In any case, it was important to move on the sanctions issue. Because, what has happened a couple weeks ago, all these attacks against UNOCI, against the U.N., were not acceptable," he said.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the Security Council last month for the temporary deployment of an additional 3,400 troops for the UNOCI mission in Ivory Coast. The force currently comprises about 7,000 U.N. peacekeepers, backed by 700 international police officers and 4,000 French troops.
But the United States and other countries that pay a large portion of the peacekeeping bill have questioned the need for such a large troop increase, until all warring factions show a desire for peace. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has said Washington will continue to look hard at requests for larger peacekeeping forces, unless, in his words, there is a peace to keep.