U.N. votes to send troops to Mali
April 26, 2013 10:00 AM

UNITED NATIONS — Despite qualms about embroiling peacekeeping troops in the global fight against Islamist extremists, the U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to establish a force for Mali, where militants controlled much of the north until France intervened in January.

The U.N. force, to be composed of 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers, is due to deploy July 1 to stabilize the nation, on the condition that the fight between the French-led troops, who are supporting the Malian government, and the retreating militants remains low-key.

“We know it is going to be a fairly volatile environment,” Herve Ladsous, the head of peacekeeping for the United Nations, said after the 15-0 vote in the Council.

The resolution specifies that French troops, which deployed in January to push the Islamist militants out of the north, will intervene again should the peacekeeping forces face an “imminent and serious threat.”

Russia expressed concerns that the U.N. blue helmets, as the peacekeeping soldiers are known because of their distinctive head gear, are moving away from their traditional role of monitoring cease-fires to more aggressive tasks.

“We are especially alarmed by the growing shift towards the force aspects of U.N. peacekeeping,” Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian envoy, told the council, referring to a rapid-reaction force already approved to go on the offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“What was the exception before now risks becoming the standard practice.”

Involving peacekeeping troops in a civil war would have “unpredictable and unclear consequences” for the safety of all U.N. personnel, he said.

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