The reaction came in a press statement released late Thursday afternoon by the Council's current President, Ambassador Arnoldo Manuel Listre of Argentina, after the Council heard a briefing by a senior United Nations peacekeeping official.
Hédi Annabi, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council yesterday in closed-door consultations on Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal for a new UN force for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a recent report, Mr. Annan has recommended the deployment of a total force of 5,537 -- in four reinforced infantry groups.
Highlighting some of the key issues raised at that briefing, a UN spokesman told the press today that Mr. Annabi had explained to the Council that those troops would not serve as an 'interposition force,' nor would they be expected to extract military observers or civilian personnel. The force would not have the capacity to protect the civilian population from armed attack.
Mr. Annabi also recalled that back in 1996, the Security Council had authorized the deployment of a multinational force in then eastern Zaire, where refugee camps were coming under attack, Spokesman Fred Eckhard said. At that time, it was made clear that the 10,000-strong force would not be in a position to disarm combatants or to separate armed elements from refugees. It would not seem reasonable to expect more of a much smaller UN force, working under much more complex and potentially dangerous circumstances, Mr. Eckhard quoted the Assistant Secretary-General as saying.
After discussing the issue for nearly three hours, Security Council members expressed support for the Secretary-General's recommendations. They also voiced their deep concern over reports of recent massacres in the eastern part of the DRC and condemned all human rights abuses in the country.