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UN To distribute Condoms

March 18, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ As a precaution against AIDS, the United Nations has decided to distribute a condom a day to each of the 16,000 male peacekeeping troops it plans to send to Congo and Sierre Leone this year, The Washington Post reported.

The decision to distribute condoms in high-risk countries, which in effect acknowledges that U.N. peacekeepers visit brothels, came after weeks of pressure by Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the Post said in its Saturday editions.

Holbrooke told a meeting of U.N. diplomats last month that the United States would not support any future peacekeeping operations that failed to address the threat of AIDS.

The United Nations does not keep track of HIV infections or sexually transmitted diseases among its peacekeeping troops, the Post said. But Holbrooke testified before Congress on March 8 that it was a significant problem. He said he learned on a trip to Asia several years ago that ``U.N. peacekeepers were coming to Cambodia to bring peace to the area, but were in fact spreading AIDS.

Fred Eckhard, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told the Post there were no statistics to back up the contention that U.N. peacekeepers were spreading AIDS. ``However, because U.N. civilian and military personnel in peacekeeping or humanitarian operations can be exposed to the dangers of contracting or spreading AIDS, the United Nations has been stepping up preventative measures,″ he said.

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