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UN chief warns of new peacekeeping threats

Wednesday - 6/19/2013, 7:30am  ET

BEIJING (AP) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday the world body's peacekeeping efforts face growing dangers from non-traditional threats such as suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices.

Ban told reporters on a visit to a peacekeeping training base near the Chinese capital that the U.N. must ensure that peacekeepers have the necessary training and specialized skills to face the threats.

These threats "are not new to the U.N., but they are more intense," Ban said.

Ban's comments came at the start of a three-day visit to China to meet with newly appointed President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Their discussions are expected to include China's growing involvement in U.N. affairs, along with international topics including tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

He said peacekeepers need to react rapidly and gather and analyze information on remote areas. In order to ensure that capability, the U.N. is deploying drones for the first time to its mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ban said.

Ban also praised China's commitment to peacekeeping efforts. China has dispatched 22,000 troops to 23 missions, more than the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council combined.

"I applaud this solidarity," Ban said, noting 14 Chinese peacekeepers have died while serving.

In all, nearly 3,000 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty since the first were deployed 65 years ago -- 103 of them last year in Congo, Darfur, Sudan, Ivory Coast and other countries. Eight more civilian contractors, such as pilots, also died during deployment with peacekeeping missions in 2012.

The United Nations currently has more than 113,000 personnel serving in 16 U.N. peacekeeping and political missions.

In the latest crisis to hit peacekeeping efforts, Austria announced it would pull out its 377 peacekeepers from the 911-member U.N. force in the Golan Heights after fighting from the Syrian civil war threatened their positions earlier this month. That will leave just 341 Philippine soldiers and 193 from India in the strategic area along the border with Israel.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters Wednesday that his country will keep its peacekeepers in place at least until Aug. 3. It will then consider a request from Ban to stay on, del Rosario said.


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