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UN Approves 3,000 More Peacekeepers for DRC

The U.N. Security Council has approved the deployment of 3,000 more police and peacekeepers to reinforce the overstretched U.N. mission in eastern Congo. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The council unanimously approved the secretary-general's request for a temporary surge in peacekeepers. But the question now is who will contribute the troops and how soon will they arrive in the conflict zone.

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said some countries have offered troops, but the department of peacekeeping is still looking for the full number needed and it would take some weeks.

"Today, we authorized the DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] to recruit and increase the number of troops on the ground, but they have to do the work," Ripert said. "But they have started planning for that, I think."

Countries considering contributing troops are meeting at U.N. headquarters.

Diplomats say the reinforcement of the mission, known as MONUC, is necessary to help the fragile peace process and ease the growing humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is already the organization's largest, with about 17,000 peacekeepers. But they keep watch over a territory the size of Western Europe, and a spike in violence since August has, according to U.N. officials, "overstretched" the mission.

Peacekeepers have been redeployed in recent weeks from other parts of Congo to North Kivu - the epicenter of the violence. About 6,000 peacekeepers are in that area now, particularly in and around the city of Goma.

Congolese government forces and rebel fighters led by renegade General Laurent Nkunda have clashed repeatedly in the eastern Congo since August, following the collapse of a January peace deal.