Global Policy Forum

Britain Calls for Robust UN Mandate

July 25, 2000

Britain introduced a resolution on Tuesday that would call for a more robust mandate for U.N. troops in Sierra Leone and delay increasing the number of soldiers until the United Nations justified their purpose.

The Security Council draft appears to be a concession to the United States, which is reluctant to pay for 3,000 more troops for a total of 16,500 as Secretary-General Kofi Annan wanted unless the force could also take over diamond mining areas controlled by the rebel Revolutionary United Front.

The new resolution's mandate would allow the force to ''decisively counter the threat of further RUF advances and incursions into areas under government control, by responding robustly to any hostile actions or intent.'' But it refrains from ordering UNAMSIL, the U.N. Mission in Sierra Leone, to conduct an offensive against the rebels as ambassador Richard Holbrooke proposed earlier this month. However, it calls for the U.N. troops to help government soldiers establish control of rebel-dominated areas.

The draft resolution asks Annan to make recommendations for restructuring and strengthening the force, with aviation, maritime, specialist combat and logistic units before the council could make a decision. A previous British draft last month called for the additional 3,000 troops without conditions.

The peacekeepers were sent to Sierra Leone to monitor a truce and disarmament pact that was to have ended a civil war that began in 1991. But rebels from the Revolutionary United Front refused to disarm and took 500 U.N. troops hostage in May when they ventured too close to diamond areas. However, in recent weeks UNAMSIL rescued 223 peacekeepers who had been encircled by the RUF for months. Over the weekend, troops also challenged another rebels group, called the West Side Boys, dismantling barricades, which harassed road travelers, and then were erected elsewhere.

In addition to the resolution on troops, the United States expects to introduce later this week another measure on the kind of criminal court that should try RUF leaders, one with both international and local officials. Holbrooke had held off presenting the draft until the rescue mission was complete.

On the composition of UNAMSIL, a British diplomat said the increase at this point was not properly justified before the force was restructured but acknowledged the council had to address concerns of the United States.

U.S. envoy Nancy Soderberg told reporters after Tuesday's council consultations: ``It is our view the situation in Sierra Leone merits a review of the purpose of UNAMSIL. It is important to define the tasks and then the numbers and not the other way around.''

Holbrooke, in a recent interview with The New York Times said the Clinton administration was asking Congress for too little money for peacekeeping and the Republican-dominated slashed the amount further. On Sierra Leone, he said he could not ask for more funds e until he could show the troubled mission had been restructured, although U.N. officials as well as British diplomats have said that increasing the troops was essential, now that the force was finally making headway against the RUF.

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