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UN Votes to Keep French-Led Troops in DRC - 2003-08-26

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday to allow troops now in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to remain there to assist U.N. peacekeepers when they arrive in early September.

The 15 member Security Council approved the measure just days before U.N. peacekeepers are expected to replace a French-led force in the Congo.

Made up of about 1,500 troops, the French-led force arrived in June in the town of Bunia, in Congo's eastern Ituri region. It is scheduled to depart September 1, although the force's complete disengagement could take until the middle of next month.

The resolution approved Tuesday by the Security Council authorizes the troops now in eastern Congo to remain there to help the United Nations force if the peacekeepers request assistance.

Secretary General Kofi Annan has expressed concern that the situation in Bunia "could become volatile during the transition period."

The U.N. is sending 11,000 peacekeepers to Congo. In addition to being far larger than the French-led force now there, the U.N. peacekeepers will have a broader mandate. Last month, the Security Council authorized the peacekeepers to "use all necessary means" to maintain the peace the troubled eastern Ituri region.

In May, the Security Council approved the decision to send the French-led force to Congo following massacres that left hundreds of people dead in inter-ethnic fighting in Bunia.