UN asks African leaders to defuse crisis in DR Congo

October 31st, 2008 - 11:59 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Even as India expressed concern over attacks on its peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged rebels in the war-torn country to “disengage” from the conflict and maintain the ceasefire. The UN chief described the worsening situation in Congo as “very threatening” and asked African leaders to take “concrete measures” to defuse the crisis.

“Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are suffering,” Ban said while advocating a continuation of the political process to resolve the crisis. “We will make utmost efforts to continue this process,” he said.

Ban, however, said there were “limits” on the role of the UN troops. “The UN is not a party of any belligerent. We cannot be seen as such,” he added.

The UN chief clarified that the world body needed a Security Council mandate to send more troops and said he hoped the European Union will be able to agree on deploying troops as there are some disagreements among the EU members over the issue.

Ban urged rebel leader Laurent Nkunda to stick to the ceasefire announced by the Tutsi rebel leader.

The UN chief said that he has been engaged in talks with Rwanda President Paul Kagame, a supporter of Nkunda, since the beginning of his visit to India on Thursday.

He also was in communication with Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and Jakaya Kikwete, the president Tanzania and head of the African Union, in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

Concerned over attacks on India’s UN peacekeepers in war-ravaged Congo, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Friday said the matter has been taken up with the United Nations to evolve a mechanism to deal with such incidents.

“We have already taken it up with the UN on how to proceed in the future,” Antony told reporters on the sidelines of the annual Naval Commanders’ Conference.

“We are concerned about the latest development there. They are a very serious development,” Antony added.

There have been two separate attacks on India’s UN peacekeepers in the past week, sources in the Army Headquarters here said.

The Indian Army, with 4,500 personnel, is the largest contributor to the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo.

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