UN to Expand Role in Iraq & Investigate Gold Smuggling in Congo

August 10th, 2007 - by admin

BBC News & Martin Plaut / BBC News – 2007-08-10 23:43:08


UN Approves Expanded Iraq Mission

(August 11, 2007) — The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a US-British resolution calling for a greater UN role in Iraq.

The UN withdrew most of its staff in 2003 after a bomb attack on its Baghdad headquarters killed its top envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others.

But there is opposition to a wider role from the UN Staff Council, which wants all UN personnel to be pulled out of the country until security improves.

The staff union can resist a further deployment of staff in Iraq.

It believes UN personnel will not be properly protected by US-led forces in the country.

Advisory role

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Ban welcomed the result of the vote, saying the international community would support Iraqi efforts to create “a peaceful and prosperous future” for themselves.

“The United Nations looks forward to working in close partnership with the leaders and people of Iraq to explore how we can further our assistance under the terms of this resolution,” he said.

The resolution – approved by all 15 Security Council members – extends the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) for a year and gives the UN a more powerful advisory role in Iraq.

All [the UN’s] resolutions and its presence are not worth the paper they are written on… change must be radical
Baghdad resident

It will pave the way for the UN special envoy in Iraq to support and assist the Iraqi government in political, economic, electoral, and constitutional matters, and help settle disputed internal boundaries.

The UN mission would also be asked to promote human rights and judicial and legal reforms and to assist the Iraqi government in planning for a national census.

The number of UN staff in Iraq would be raised from 65 to 95.

But correspondents say there will be limits as to how much the UN can do on the ground.

Residents doubtful

The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, has said that the UN could play a positive role in facilitating dialogue between rival factions in Iraq, especially those that refuse to talk directly to the US.

Authorises UN envoy to help Iraqi government in political, economic, electoral, constitutional, refugee and human-rights issues
Promotes talks among ethnic and religious groups
Promotes talks between Iraq and neighbours on border security, energy and refugees under UN auspices
Raises UN staff in Iraq to 95

“This is an effort to internationalise the effort to assist Iraqis overcome their internal difference, and to assist the neighbours by bringing them together to help Iraq rather than add to Iraq’s problems,” Mr Khalilzad told the Associated Press news agency.

This resolution underscores the shifting approach of the Bush administration to Iraq, says the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

The US is desperate to reduce its military entanglement in Iraq, believing regional countries have a role to play in reducing violence there, our correspondent says.

Residents of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, told the BBC’s Arabic Service they thought the UN deployment would not influence the sectarian rivalries threatening stability in the country.

“All [the UN’s] resolutions and its presence are not worth the paper they are written on… Change must be radical, bringing in a secular government, a non-factional government that does not side with the Shia or align itself with the Sunnis,” one man said.

But supporters of the move, including at the UN, believe this may promote progress in Iraq and help break the political deadlock there, analysts say.
Story from BBC NEWS:

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UN Troops ‘Helped Smuggle Gold’
Martin Plaut / BBC News

The BBC has obtained an internal UN report examining allegations of gold smuggling by Pakistani peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It concluded that Pakistani officers provided armed escorts, hospitality and food to gold smugglers in east Congo.

The confidential report recommended the case be referred to Islamabad for appropriate action against the troops.

An earlier UN report, published in July after an 18-month inquiry, found only one man involved in the illicit trade.

The Pakistani battalion at the centre of the claims was based in and around the mining town of Mongbwalu, in the north-east of the country, in 2005.

They helped bring peace to an area that had previously seen bitter fighting between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups.

But witnesses claimed Pakistani officers also supplied weapons to notorious FNI militia commanders in return for gold.

As the trade developed, the officers allegedly brought in the Congolese army and then Indian traders from Kenya.

‘Like old friends’

The internal report, marked strictly confidential, was produced by the UN’s own office of Internal Oversight Services.

While the report did not support allegations that the Pakistanis provided weapons to the militia operating in the area, it provided detailed evidence of the trading network established in the gold mines of eastern Congo, involving Pakistani troops, Congolese army officers and Indian traders.

The report quoted witnesses as saying that Indian gold traders were at the Pakistani camp in Mongbwalu “on a regular basis… consuming meals in the officers’ mess and socialising with UN personnel”.

Others said that when the gold traders landed at the airstrip they were greeted by the Pakistanis “as if they were old friends” and that they were transported from the airfield in UN vehicles.

Details of the flights used by the smugglers were not entered into the Civil Aircraft Register maintained by the Pakistanis, and the investigators concluded that they considered it likely this “was a deliberate cover-up of this group’s arrival in Mongbwalu, whose mission was to purchase gold”.

Human Rights Watch, which first raised these concerns in late 2005, described the gold smuggling operation as a mafia-like organisation.

Although the UN investigators found local people and UN staff who testified that weapons and ammunition were sold to the FNI militia operating in the area, they said this could not be substantiated.

The investigating team made no reference to the evidence of a Congolese army officer whom they interviewed, and who later spoke to the BBC.

He said he had seen evidence that the Pakistanis were re-arming the militia.

Nor does the UN team refer to a letter from two former militia leaders – known as Dragon and Kung Fu – in which they admitted receiving arms from the Pakistanis to control the gold mines.

In reality the report raises as many questions as it lays to rest – and no-one has yet been arrested or held to account.

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