DR Congo + 2 more

UN Council begins to move on troops for Congo

By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Security Council members intend to issue a statement that falls far short of promising U.N. troops for the Democratic Republic of the Congo before working on a resolution for an initial observer force.

Seven presidents from African nations pledged at an extraordinary Security Council meeting on Monday to bolster a faltering Congo cease-fire pact, signed last summer in Lusaka, Zambia. But they all said it would fail without U.N. peacekeepers on the ground.

"I am gratified the parties recommitted themselves to Lusaka. But a war of this complexity -- and this one is as complex as any war in the last 50 years anywhere in the world -- cannot be solved by a few hours of speeches in the Security Council," U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke told reporters on Tuesday.

He said "a lot of debris" was being cleared in private meetings around New York. "But I am not satisfied, the fighting is going on. The measurement is not here in New York but on the ground."

Holbrooke, this month's Security Council president, said the 15-member body would issue a statement on Wednesday before any resolution on a preliminary observer force would be adopted for the Congo, where half a dozen countries have intervened in the vast central African nation's civil war.

Holbrooke said drafting had begun on a resolution concerning recommendations Annan made in a recent report. The U.N. chief proposed 500 military observers and some 5,000 troops and other units to guard them as a possible forerunner to an even larger U.N. peacekeeping force.

The United States has been the most reluctant council member to approve a force until the fighting stops.

Holbrooke, who organized the visits of the African presidents, said he first had to consult Congress. The Clinton administration agreed several years ago to seek approval from key congressional leaders before voting for a peacekeeping mission, of which they have to pay a third of the costs.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday convened a mini-summit to see how the cease-fire could be implemented. His spokesman said he reviewed "the nuts and bolts" of U.N. deployment of possible peacekeeping troops.

Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have entered the civil war, which began in 1998, in support of the Congo government of President Laurent Kabila's against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

The governments signed an accord in Lusaka in July 1999 and rebel leaders joined the agreement in August. But fighting has continued in the war, which has destabilized central Africa and driven 1 million people from their homes.

The accord, whose implementation has fallen behind schedule,called for the withdrawal of foreign troops in Congo and a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Holbrooke said some rebels leaders were at the United Nations but could not participate in Security Council meetings, which were reserved for U.N. members governments.

Congo President Laurent Kabila, who is in New York for the first time with an entourage of 90,, on Tuesday again accused South Africa of aiding his opponents by continuing "to receive the so-called rebels". He called them "puppets of Rwanda and Uganda" and said Pretoria was interested in exploiting his country's diamond mines.

South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is at the New York meetings, said her country would "communicate equally with all parties involved."

At a separate press conference, Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu was asked when his troops would withdraw from the Congo. He said that depended on when Hutu militia, accused of leading the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, would leave the country be disarmed.

Otherwise they would "immediately rush back into Rwanda."

"Most of these people are good at killing civilians, the elderly and children. I haven't seen any other example of their brilliance, aside from handling arms," Bizimungu said.

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, who mediated the cease-fire accord last July, said one major problem was a lack of funds for a Joint Military Commission supervising the pact, thereby creating a vacuum that was now being rectified.

But he said on Monday the Security Council was setting conditions for peacekeepers that required "a perfect score on some performance chart."

"To the best of my knowledge, no other cease-fire agreement anywhere in the world has been subjected to this test."

The African presidents in New York, in addition to Kabila, Chiluba and Bizimungu, are Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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