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UN peacekeeping force to leave Chad


The United Nation's 3,300 peacekeepers are to leave Chad and the Central African Republic

The United Nation's 3,300 peacekeepers are to leave Chad and the Central African Republic

The United Nation's 3,300 peacekeepers are to leave Chad and the Central African Republic

Chad's government has succeeded in forcing a 3,300-strong UN peacekeeping force operating in Chad and the Central African Republic to pull out by the end of this year.

And with the UN Security Council's unanimous vote to disband the peacekeeping force known as Minurcat, another troubled African nation concerned with looming elections and 50-year independence celebrations has dealt a setback to UN peacekeeping.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, too, has told the United Nations to pack up its peacekeeping operations ahead of independence celebrations and elections scheduled for next year.

The vote by the UN's most powerful arm all but confirms the view advanced by Chadian President Idriss Deby, who has called the force "a failure" - and in February insisted his country did not want to renew the peacekeeping force's mandate - because it had not improved conditions along the border.

"We trust that the government of Chad will do its utmost to fulfil its responsibilities and use all available capabilities for the protection of the population in eastern Chad," said Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, the only diplomat to speak after the council's show of hands.

Though it agreed to the resolution, he said, Austria "would have preferred a more gradual approach in the drawdown" of forces and a continued UN role in protecting civilians.

Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said on the third day of his visit to Chad that 1.4 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition because of drought and crop failure in the western part of the nation. He said 102,000 of those are severely malnourished children, and the World Food Programme will begin handing out food to 450,000 people on Thursday.

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The council adopted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's plan for a gradual withdrawal of the two and a half-year-old peacekeeping force near the border with Sudan's volatile Darfur region.

The Security Council authorised cutting the force by July 15 down to 2,200 soldiers - 1,900 in Chad, 300 in the Central African Republic - and 25 liaison officers. They are to be accompanied by no more than 300 police.

Final withdrawal of the remaining troops is to begin on October 15. Nearly all uniformed and civilian UN personnel are to be gone by December 31. Only "those required for the mission's liquidation" may remain past then, the resolution says.

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