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UN Questions Neutral Force `Concept' in Congo Conflict

The United Nations can’t support creation of a proposed “neutral force” to fight rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo until the idea is developed further, according to the head of UN peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous.

On Sept. 8, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region agreed to deploy the force to eastern Congo within three months under the auspices of the UN and African Union. More than 500,000 people have been displaced by fighting in the region between Congo’s army and rebels, who Congo claims are supported by neighboring Rwanda. Rwanda denies the allegations.

“The concept needs to be fleshed out,” Ladsous told reporters in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, today. “I would not think the Security Council would be in a position to make a determination just on an idea.”

The UN already has more than 19,000 peace-keepers in Congo. Ninety-four percent of its troops are based in the east, where conflict has persisted since a 2003 peace agreement that brought an end to almost a decade of war, said Ladsous, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

The proposed neutral force will be made up of 4,000 troops from countries not implicated in conflict in Congo, Uganda’s New Vision newspaper reported today.

The current fighting began when former rebels defected from the army in April. In June, the UN Group of Experts on Congo published details of Rwandan support for the rebels.

Countries including the U.S., Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands, have withheld some funding from Rwanda because of the allegations.

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