A UN fact-finding mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea is scheduled to leave New York late Monday to prepare the way for the deployment of UN peace-keeping forces there, a spokesman said.
The mission, headed by Major-General Timothy Ford of Australia, will include military, political, legal and humanitarian experts, said UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.
In a report to the Security Council -- the text of which was released Monday -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that after the mission's visit to the region, its members would "make recommendations to me concerning a concept of operations for a United Nations peacekeeping mission."
The peace accord signed by Ethiopia and Eritrea in Algiers on June 18th envisages the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in a buffer zone along the border 25 kilometers (15 miles) into Eritrea.
The peace accord, brokered by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), officially ended the war that had killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than a million.
It also calls for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from areas inside Eritrea beyond disputed border regions.
On the basis of the mission's findings, and after consulting with the two governments and the OAU, Annan will make recommendations to the UN Security Council by the end of July.
"The protracted conflict has compounded the already devastating effects of the drought in the two countries," Annan said. Of some 1.2 million displaced, 70 percent were women, children and the elderly, he added.
According to diplomats, the UN peacekeeping operation could include between 2,000 and 4,000 soldiers -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )