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U.N.: Republic of Congo not ready for peace force

Lissouba August 13, 1997
Web posted at: 4:40 p.m. EDT (2040 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday condemned the outbreak of factional fighting in the Republic of Congo, and said conditions don't yet exist for the deployment of a peacekeeping force.

The 15-member council issued a statement calling on the feuding factions to "halt all acts of violence immediately" and adhere to a cease-fire signed in Gabon on July 13.

Meanwhile, a private radio station loyal to militia leader Gen. Denis Sassou-Nguesso said Wednesday that 47 fighters from a rival militia had been killed in fierce fighting.

The peace force was requested by Gabonese President Omar Bongo, head of the international mediation effort.

But the United Nations said the Republic of Congo must make three concessions before a peacekeeping force will be considered: implement a cease-fire, agree to international control of the capital's airport in Brazzaville and commit to a negotiated military and political settlement.

"The Security Council is of the view that, despite some positive political developments, these conditions have not yet been fulfilled," said the statement read by the council's president, British Ambassador Sir John Weston.

Advance peacekeeping force sought

Sassou Nguesso

The fighting broke out June 5, after President Pascal Lissouba sent troops to surround the home of Sassou-Nguesso, his predecessor, as part of a crackdown on private militias.

Hundreds of people died, many of them civilians killed by indiscriminate shelling, before the fragile cease-fire was signed.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his special envoy for the region, Mohamed Sahnoun, have proposed an advance force of about 1,000 troops -- outside U.N. jurisdiction -- as a first step to U.N. involvement.

Eventually, they want the number of soldiers to be increased, and the peacemaking effort approved as a U.N. operation. About 17 African countries are ready to participate.

The entire venture has been tenuous from the start with reluctance among some countries, especially the United States, to sponsor another peacekeeping operation.

A peacekeeping force would be financed solely by U.N. members, whereas a multinational force would need voluntary financial contributions from participants or other interested countries. In either case, authorization from the Security Council is needed to give the operation legitimacy.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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