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UN: Rare Council Summit Supports Peacekeeping Reform

United Nations Security Council members have united to approve a resolution on reforming UN peacekeeping operations. But they maintained their standard positions on issues such as humanitarian intervention and the use of sanctions. RFE/RL's UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 8 September 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A rare meeting of leaders of UN Security Council countries has found unanimity in the cause of peacekeeping reforms. But differences remain over the scope of UN involvement in conflicts.

The council yesterday (Thursday) unanimously adopted a resolution committing it to creating clearly defined peacekeeping mandates. It also pledged to take steps to train and properly equip troops and provide a better basis for paying for such operations.

The meeting was called in response to recent difficulties by UN peacekeepers in Africa, which highlighted lapses in training and financing. Many critics have blamed the Security Council for allowing peacekeeping to become discredited.

The resolution vote came after an appeal from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to follow through on an expert panel's recommendations for reform of UN peacekeeping.

"Too many vulnerable communities in too many regions of the world now hesitate to look to the United Nations to assist them in their hour of need. No amount of resolutions or statements can change this reality. Only action can: prompt, united and effective action, pursued with skill and discipline to halt conflict and restore the peace."

Many of the world's powers over the past two days have said that UN peacekeepers need to be better trained, equipped and provided with clearer mandates when the decision is made to deploy. But yesterday's action by the council did not specify how the various reform measures would be financed.

U.S. President Bill Clinton expressed strong support for the peacekeeping improvements, but the U.S. Congress has delayed payments by hundreds of millions of dollars. The United States is pushing for a reapportionment in the way peacekeeping is financed and no major funds are likely to be made available until that is achieved.

Clinton told his council colleagues that they need to view the causes of conflict differently than before. He said they should recognize the impact of underdevelopment and diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis in causing instability.

"Until we confront the iron link between deprivation, disease and war we will never be able to create the peace that the founders of the United Nations dreamed of."

But the presidents of two other permanent council members -- China and Russia -- stressed their opposition to intervention in other countries' affairs. Chinese President Jiang Zemin said the use of force in the name of humanitarianism runs counter to the UN charter. Russian President Vladimir Putin said only the Security Council has the right to support use of force in cases of extreme crisis.

Both China and Russia strongly opposed the NATO bombing campaign that forced Yugoslav forces to withdraw from Kosovo and end its campaign against ethnic Albanians. Both countries have also been consistent critics of the UN mission in Kosovo, saying it is failing to protect minority Serbs and frequently violates Yugoslav sovereignty.

Another area of Council divisiveness -- Iraq -- was touched on by French President Jacques Chirac. France, along with Russia and China, has been calling for an easing of the 10-year sanctions regime against Iraq, saying it has proved devastating for Iraqi citizens. The United States and Britain defend the program and say it is providing for Iraqis basic needs.

Chirac said the council needs to make sure that when it applies sanctions, they are targeted more effectively.

"The sanctions must be proportional to their objective and not carry, as we have seen today, morally unacceptable humanitarian consequences. They must be applied rigorously, without involving side effects that are inhumane and unacceptable."

In other comments, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, whose country is a temporary council member, called for reform of the council to make it more effective in preventing conflicts. Kuchma pointed to the destabilizing impact of the unresolved conflicts in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. He called for the establishment of regional UN centers for conflict prevention, as instruments that could help the Security Council in its work.