Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked
the Security Council to consider expanding the UN troop presence in Sierra
Leone, his spokesman Fred Eckhard said today.
Mr. Annan last week wrote to the current President of the Security Council, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, recommending that the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) be expanded to "close to ten thousand military personnel," Mr. Eckhard said.
The Secretary-General had noted that Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea were all preparing to withdraw their troops from the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) force in Sierra Leone.
"I am very much concerned that the repatriation of ECOMOG troops in the immediate future, without adequate security protection provided by other peacekeepers, would create a dangerous security gap in key areas," Mr. Eckhard quoted the Secretary-General as saying in his letter to the Council.
The spokesman said that the Secretary-General was recommending that the Council authorize the addition of up to four infantry battalions and support personnel to UNAMSIL as soon as possible, and that the force be mandated to provide security at Lungi airport and in the capital, Freetown.
More details of Mr. Annan's concept of an expanded UNAMSIL will be provided in a report to the Council due on 20 January, Mr. Eckhard added.