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UN Names New Peacekeeping Chief

Herve Ladsous, then French ambassador to China, gestures during a briefing with Serge Abou, the European Union ambassador to China [not pictured], in Beijing on October 16, 2008. (file photo)

The United Nations has named a new chief of its peacekeeping operations.

Veteran French diplomat Herve Ladsous was appointed Friday to take on the high-profile job. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement the former ambassador brings"acute political judgement" and "a profound understanding" of the challenges facing the U.N.

Ladsous will be in charge of some 120,000 peacekeepers and a more than $7-billion budget for missions in Haiti, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and elsewhere around the world. He faces challenges from some governments and communities disenchanted with soldiers who have at times been accused of abusing the people they are sent to protect.

Meanwhile, four Uruguayan peacekeepers in Haiti are facing allegations they sexually assaulted a Haitian teenager in July.

The ABC News network reports cell phone video purporting to show the attack has been widely viewed in Haiti and caused outrage. The footage shows soldiers in camouflage fatigues laughing as one holds down a young man and appears to assault him. According to ABC, a medical certificate filed with a Haitian court alleges there were injuries consistent with a sexual assault.

The U.N. has pledged to investigate the incident and, if the allegations prove true, bring the peacekeepers to justice. But a base commander told ABC the videotaped encounter was just a "game." He said the alleged victim often hung around at the base and that the soldiers were perhaps acting as bullies, but there was no sexual component.

U.N. peacekeepers have faced sexual abuse allegations in the past. In one instance, a 2005 report accused peacekeepers from the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo of rape, pedophilia, and buying sexual favors from children in return for food or money.

The U.N. does not have its own military, but relies on soldiers sent from member countries to staff its missions.

Ladsous takes over his post from Alain Le Roy, who left last month. The top peacekeeping job is traditionally held by France, part of an unofficial practice that reserves certain key jobs for the United States, France, Britain, and the other permanent Security Council members.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.