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UN working with neighbours of DR of Congo to contain militia threat, Annan says

3 March 2005 The United Nations mission in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is trying to contain the situation in a very troublesome and unsettled area, as recent attacks on UN troops have shown, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

Answering questions from journalists about the killing of 50 or more militiamen Tuesday in a firefight in Ituri district, he said, "We are doing whatever we can to contain the situation and also trying to work with the (DRC) Government and the neighbouring governments to ensure that things do not get out of hand."

Reports received said the troops from the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) were attacked when they were on patrol "and they responded robustly," Mr. Annan said.

The Secretary-General said he did not think the response was a deliberate show of force. "It was really an attempt to defend themselves and a determination to fulfil their mandate as effectively as they can," he said in response to a question.

Meanwhile, representatives of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) told a news conference that the Mission's robust response came under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which permits the use of force "to maintain or restore international peace and security."

MONUC had gathered reliable information during an increase in violence over the past four months that the militia that suffered this week's casualties, the Nationalist Integrationist Front (FNI), was planning an attack on the Mission or on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the villages of Tché or Kafe, said François Dureau, chief of DPKO's Situation Centre.

The cordon and search operation that the troops were engaged in as a response to that information when they were attacked had been planned before nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers were killed last week, he said.

The Deputy Director for Africa in DPKO's Office of Operations, Margaret Carey added that peacekeeping operations were now more robust because the Department had learned the lessons of Srebrenica and Rwanda. In both cases, UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians.

Asked what DPKO needed most in the DRC, Ms. Carey said MONUC needed better intelligence capabilities, especially air surveillance and electronic listening, as well as a refinement of the weapons embargo imposed by the Security Council.

While the signatories to the embargo were not themselves under embargo because they were members of the National Transitional Government, certain individuals in the Government were known to be collecting arms, she said.

MONUC's mandate, meanwhile, was to establish security so that the National Transitional Government could create peace, she said.

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