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UN Seeks More Troops for DRC Mission

The top U.N. official in the Democratic Republic of Congo said Tuesday his peacekeeping force is stretched to the limit because of recent fighting and he has asked the Security Council for additional reinforcements. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

U.N. envoy Alan Doss said that more troops are needed quickly so the U.N. peacekeeping force, known by its French acronym MONUC, can adequately protect the thousands of civilians caught in the latest surge in violence.

The fighting between the rebel group led by former Congolese General Laurent Nkunda and government forces in the eastern part of the country has displaced tens of thousands.

Doss told reporters at the United Nations via a video link from Kinshasa that it is not just a matter of more troops, but also of better capabilities and capacities.

"I think the [security] council is seized of our request and very aware of the difficulties we face, and I hope the council may well be able to authorize that additional support through one fashion or another," said Alan Doss.

In New York, the new head of the U.N. Peacekeeping department, Alain Le Roy, said the sense of urgency surrounding Doss' request is growing among member states.

"Clearly the request for additional forces, additional battalions, additional aviation, additional capacity, has been heard clearly by all member states," said Alain Le Roy. "And as you are aware, also, today, President Kabila requested in a separate statement having a multinational force also to help on the ground."

Le Roy said reports are very worrying that rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's forces seek to capture the provincial capital of Goma and are within striking distance of the city.

"The stability of the region is at stake, if that would happen of course," he said. "And then, but of course, MONUC is there to try by all means to protect the civilians in Goma."

MONUC's total force capacity is currently around 17,000 peacekeepers and police in a country the size of Western Europe. But only a portion of that force is deployed in the eastern region where fighting recently erupted.