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New UN Peacekeeping Chief Faces Growing Challenges

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed seasoned French diplomat Alain Le Roy to head the organizations' peacekeeping operations. From Paris, Lisa Bryant takes a look at the man at the helm of a very difficult department.

Alain Le Roy was most recently in charge of a Euro-Mediterranean project spearheaded by France, but he is no stranger to troubled regions. He has held U.N. jobs as special coordinator and regional administrator in Bosnia and Kosovo. He has also been the European Union's special representative in Macedonia and the French ambassador to Mauritania.

Now he presides over a huge department. The number of U.N. troops around the world has grown from 50,000 to more than 100,000 during the past eight years.

About 120 countries today contribute military and police to U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges of the French Institute for International Relations, in Paris, says a good manager is first and foremost what is needed to lead U.N. peacekeeping operations.

"I am not sure it is a question of personality," he said. "It is mostly a question of organization. Today the peacekeeping forces are a huge bureaucracy - very complicated. And you need a good manager, a good administrator. Maybe you might need a charismatic person, but you need more a good manager."

Le Roy takes charge at a time when U.N. peacekeepers are grappling with huge demands and with sometimes negative reputations.

"First, there are almost 20 operations all over the world - in Africa, in Asia and it is why it is so complicated," said Defarges. "Second point, these operations are very difficult. These U.N. peacekeepers who come with good will and are often there to help people, often look like occupying forces. That is why the relationship between these forces and the local populations can be very difficult."

U.N. peacekeepers have been under the cloud of sex abuse and corruption scandals in countries like Ivory Coast and Congo. And one of the biggest challenges now facing them - and Le Roy - is how to stabilize Darfur - a vast and desolate region in Sudan that has been torn apart by war.