The Security Council on Monday renewed the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with terms diplomats said would help them fight rebels independently of Congo's army.
U.N. officials have countered that the 17,000-strong force is stretched thin in Congo, which is the size of western Europe, and is limited by its mandate. The Security Council last month approved an extra 3,000 peacekeepers.
Monday's resolution extends MONUC's mandate until the end of 2009. Diplomats said the text beefed up last year's resolution by saying the force should work "in close cooperation with" Congo's government, rather than "support" the Congolese army.
U.N. officials and rights groups have said Congo's army failed to resist an offensive launched in eastern Congo in August by Tutsi rebels led by Gen. Laurent Nkunda, and that some soldiers committed atrocities against civilians.
"The new resolution makes it possible for MONUC to act independently against armed groups. This is important because the (Congolese army) in its present status cannot be the sole foundation for the strategy against armed groups," Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht told the council.
"It can now also take action if uncontrolled elements of the (Congolese army) are at the source of violent acts against the population."
Another clause in the resolution instructs MONUC to increasingly focus its action on the eastern part of Congo. The force's leadership has argued in the past that it has to spread itself evenly around all potential trouble spots.
Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2008, 14:53