UN 'thrilled' at Obama peacekeeping meeting

Rice announced in August that the US will pay US$2.2 billion it owes to fund the UN peacekeeping operations.

un peacekeepers 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
un peacekeepers 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The UN peacekeeping chief said Tuesday he's "thrilled" that President Barack Obama plans to meet next week with the unsung countries that contribute the most troops and police to the UN's far-flung peacekeeping missions - and to offer more US help. "We consider that they are doing an incredible job - all in very difficult situations," Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy said. "I understand that president Obama wants to say that with his own words. But also, he wants to say that the US wants to contribute more to helping and to strengthen peacekeeping operations." The United Nations has nearly 115,000 troops, police and civilians deployed in 16 peacekeeping missions from Africa and the Mideast to Cyprus, Kosovo, Western Sahara and Haiti. But it has had trouble finding soldiers, helicopters and other key assets for several important operations, and it has sent troops to places - including Darfur and Congo - where there is no peace to keep. US Ambassador Susan Rice said Monday that Obama's meeting with major police- and troop-contributing countries on the sidelines of next week's ministerial meeting of the UN General Assembly was an opportunity for the president to recognize the "often largely unheralded contributions" of countries that "are doing essential work to build peace and security in fragile situations." Those countries include Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Nepal, Rwanda, Egypt, Jordan, Ghana, Ethiopia, Italy, Uruguay, Senegal, South Africa and China. "We are thrilled" that Obama will be meeting the police and troop contributors, Le Roy said. Rice told the Security Council in August that the US is "ready to invest in UN peacekeeping, even in a time of economic crisis, because this truly global enterprise serves a shared interest and offers millions of people the prospect of a more secure, prosperous and dignified future." Le Roy told a press conference Tuesday that the United States doesn't intend "for the time being to send additional troops or a significant number of police because ... they are already stretched in Afghanistan." "But they are ready to find ways to help more those who are on the ground - maybe with equipment, airlifting," he said, noting that the US flew Rwandan troops to Darfur to be part of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in the conflict-wracked western region of Sudan. "They are now trying to see by all means how they can strengthen the peacekeeping operation because they understand - and president Obama was very clear on that - ... the invaluable contribution to peace and security in the world," Le Roy said. Rice announced in August that the US will pay US$2.2 billion it owes to fund the UN peacekeeping operations, a move Le Roy again called "very good news." The United States pays about 25 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget. The latest budget, approved several months ago, totals $7.4 billion for peacekeeping plus $800,000 for a dozen special political missions, according to Susanna Malcorra, the undersecretary-general responsible for staffing and equipping UN field-based peace operations.