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UN Authorizes New Peacekeeping Force for Burundi - 2004-05-21

The U.N. Security Council has authorized a new peacekeeping force for Burundi. The force is the 16th in the world body's growing list of peacekeeping operations.

The Security Council Friday unanimously approved creation of the 5,600 strong Burundi mission.

After the vote, Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed hope the blue-helmeted U.N. troops would reinforce Burundi's fragile peace.

?I hope the people of Burundi and the protagonists will see this as the interest the international community has in the process,? he said. ?And I hope it would also give them the incentive to move forward and try and resolve this issue once and for all. It's gone on for too long and the people of Burundi have suffered enough.?

Much of the U.N. force is already on the ground in Burundi. They are troops from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique who have previously been part of an Organization of African Unity force.

Pakistani and Nepali soldiers in the new U.N. operation will join those troops. They will monitor cease-fire agreements signed between rival Tutsis and Hutus in 2002 and 2003.

Burundi's decade of civil war killed 200,000 people, forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes and crippled the country's coffee and tea industries. In a report to the Security Council, Secretary General Annan said Burundi's economic output has declined 25 percent in the past five years. The report said that despite an easing of hostilities, Burundians continue to live in fear of abuse and abject poverty, with an average per capita income of $110 a year.

The Burundi mission brings to nearly 60,000 the number of blue helmeted U.N. peacekeeping troops worldwide.

This week, Secretary-General Annan estimated the cost of newly added missions would push this year's peacekeeping budget from $2.8 dollars to more than $4 billion.