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West face peacekeeping accusations

KFOR troops attempt to maintain order and rebuild communities in the Balkans  

LONDON, England -- Western states have been accused of being reluctant to take on some peacekeeping operations by a leading think-tank.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) also said in its annual survey that multilateral peacekeeping forces often lacked the political will to find a common aim and make a difference.

The IISS said Western nations were increasingly reluctant to operate outside their own sphere of interest and doubted whether the United Nations could operate effectively in countries such as Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone's 1999 peace accord collapsed in May last year when rebels kidnapped some 500 U.N. troops and advanced toward the capital, Freetown.

Britain intervened in its former West African colony helping to restore order and British troops stayed on to train the new army.

The IISS said operations tended to be more effective when one nation, or a small group with a specific interest in the country they were policing, took a leading role.

Those countries must also be "willing to pay a considerable financial and political price," the IISS added.

It cited the examples of Australia in East Timor, and, to an extent, Nigeria in Africa.

In 1999, the U.N. Security Council unanimously authorised an Australian-peacekeeping mission to use whatever means necessary to end a wave of terror by pro-Indonesian militias, who killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands after East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia.

The report said the U.S. was unlikely to withdraw from the Balkans because it maintains a core strategic interest in European stability. However, the U.S. might be slower to deploy military support in less pressing regions.

"With respect to substantial engagement in peacekeeping in non-strategic areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. officials and the American public probably will remain reluctant to place troops at risk," the IISS reported.

"Washington's preferred approach is to encourage the regionalisation of peacekeeping in such areas through train-and-equip programmes."

Britain has taken a similar stance in Sierra Leone, where its soldiers are training official government forces.

The IISS predicted that significant military mobilisations by the U.N. were unlikely in the near future.

"It is more likely that the U.N. will adopt a limited approach involving political officers and aid-agency officials rather than a military force," it said.

The IISS concluded its annual report urging participating countries to agree on a common solution to keeping the peace.

"The U.N.'s recent peacekeeping experiences reveal the absence of -- and the need for -- strategic thinking, lasting commitment and unity of approach among contributors to an operation."

• UN in Kosovo
• United Nations
• United States Mission to the United Nations

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