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UN Honors International Peacekeepers - 2003-05-29

The United Nations Thursday honored international peacekeepers, many of who have died in the line of duty. The U.N.'s first Day of International Peacekeepers comes as the Security Council considers sending a multinational force to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A U.N. official began the tribute by reading the names of the 67 soldiers, civilian police and staff members who lost their lives last year in international peacekeeping missions.

Then, diplomats from around the world received medals of honor in recognition of the peacekeepers' sacrifice.

In the 55 years since the United Nations was created, more than 1,800 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty.

Speaking in a videotaped message for the first International Peacekeepers Day, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the current missions are more complex than ever.

Now, Mr. Annan says, peacekeepers engage in policing and training, serving as judges and prosecutors, administering health and education and promoting human rights. "The mission of the United Nations peacekeeping will continue," he said. "Peacekeeping by itself cannot end war. But it can help prevent a recurrence of fighting. Above all, it gives time and space for conflict resolution. It gives peace a chance."

Today, there are nearly 40,000 peacekeepers deployed from 89 countries for 14 missions.

The United Nations Security Council is now considering a resolution to send a new multinational force, led by France, to the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri Province.

Although there are 700 U.N. troops in the region, they have not been able to stop the recent fighting between Hema and Lendu ethnic groups.

The violence has left hundreds of civilians dead and has led to widespread atrocities.