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U.N. votes to expand Congo military observers

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to more than double the number of military observers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a gesture of support for the fragile peace process there.

The resolution endorsed a recommendation by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to increase the number of observers from about 200 to 500.

In the French-sponsored resolution, the council extended the mandate of the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) for another six months.

Last February, the council authorized a 5,537-member force of observers and infantry troops to monitor the Lusaka cease-fire agreement signed in 1999 by the warring parties in Congo.

  RESOURCES
U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Lusaka Ceasefire Document
 
  IN-DEPTH SPECIAL
Counting the dead in Congo
 

Rival rebel groups, supported by Rwanda and Uganda, have been fighting to overthrow Congolese President Laurent Kabila's government for two years. Kabila's army is backed by troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.

However, the United Nations has been unable to deploy the full mission due to recurrent fighting and inadequate security guarantees from the Kabila government.

In a report issued last week, Annan said he was prepared to recommend the deployment of infantry units to back up the observers.

Thursday's resolution indicated the council's willingness to dispatch infantry units along the Congolese border with Rwanda, as soon as Annan "considers that conditions will allow it."

The resolution also recommended another summit meeting of the signatories to the Lusaka agreement and the Security Council at the United Nations next February.

Unlike U.N. peacekeepers, the military observers are only lightly armed, and are not mandated to engage in combat. They regularly report on the military situation to Annan, who in turn updates the Security Council.



RELATED STORIES:
African defense chiefs sign deal on Congo withdrawal
December 6, 2000
U.N. gives Congo's warring sides two months to resume peace talks
October 13, 2000
Aid group estimates war-related death toll in east Congo at 2 million
June 21, 2000

RELATED SITES:
U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Lusaka Ceasefire Document
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of The Congo
Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement
Human Rights Watch 1999 report on the Democratic Republic of Congo
The International Rescue Committee
  •  Mortality Study, Eastern Democratic Republic Of Congo
Congo Defense Fund (CDF) (French)


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