Minister: Jordan Peacekeepers Refuse to be ‘Alone’ in S Leone
Jordan will not accept its 1,800 peacekeepers in Sierra Leone remaining "alone in the zone of conflict" after the withdrawal announced by Indian soldiers, Information Minister Taleb Rifai said Thursday.
Quoted by the Jordanian press, Rifai said "the UN and Jordan had agreed that the Jordanian force operating in Sierra Leone under the UN mission in the country (UNAMSIL) will finish its mandate this December."
"We have informed the UN of the withdrawal" by this date in line with the agreement, he added.
"Besides, the Jordanian peacekeepers have become alone after the withdrawal of the Indian force in September, and Jordan will not permit its forces to remain alone in the conflict zone," Rifai said.
The Jordanian government said last week it intended to withdraw its 1,800 troops -- the third largest contingent in UNAMSIL -- by the end of the year.
Jordan's decision to pull out of the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone came as a fresh blow to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's aim of increasing the force from its current authorized limit of 13,000 to 20,500.
India, which has overall command of the force, announced last month it would pull out its 3,000 soldiers once replacements could be found.
The departure of the Indians and the Jordanians will leave Bangladesh as the only non-African country with troops in Sierra Leone.
Annan said Wednesday that Jordan's decision to pull out of UNAMSIL spotlighted the unwillingness of big powers to commit troops to the operations.
Earlier this month, Britain said it would send hundreds of troops close to Sierra Leone in an "over-the-horizon force," but not part of UNAMSIL.
The UN Security Council had expected to reinforce the mandate and capabilities of the international force, which had 500 of its troops captured in the spring by rebels -- AMMAN (AFP)
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