Annan Urges Jordan for Flexibility
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Jordan on Wednesday to be flexible in withdrawing its peacekeeping troops from Sierra Leone, saying he was trying to find replacements but needed time to get them on the ground.
At a press conference, Annan confirmed that Jordan wants to pull its 1,800-strong contingent out of the war-ravaged west African nation because its calls for developed countries _ particularly NATO countries _ to join the peacekeeping mission went unheeded.
Britain has announced an increase in its number of troops in Sierra Leone, but those forces aren’t part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which has an authorized strength of 13,000 soldiers. The British troops are helping train the Sierra Leone army to counter rebel attacks.
Annan said Jordan had hoped others would step in to join them in the actual U.N. force. He said the Jordanian officials do not believe the British offer is sufficient.
The United States has refrained from sending ground troops for U.N. peacekeeping operations in Africa since 18 American servicemen died in Somalia in 1993.
The Sierra Leone peace mission began a year ago to monitor an agreement between the government and rebels that was to have ended eight years of civil war. But the rebels reignited the war in May by taking 500 U.N. peacekeepers hostage, robbing them of their weapons and in some cases of their uniforms.
The Jordanian announcement marked the second major setback to the force in a month. India recently announced it was pulling out its 3,059-strong contingent.
Annan said he had asked both governments to be flexible in the withdrawal timetable, giving the United Nations a chance to come up with replacements and added troops to boost the force to a planned 20,500.