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West African peacekeepers seek funding to increase strength

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is looking to western donors for nearly US $40 million to double or even triple the size of its 1,200-strong peace-keeping force in Cote d'Ivoire, diplomatic sources said on Friday. The West African peacekeepers currently in place are financed mainly by France, which has also sent 4,000 of its own troops to Cote d'Ivoire to help enforce a ceasefire between government and rebel forces. Britain and the United States have also made sizeable financial contributions to the force of soldiers from Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger and Senegal, which was sent to Cote d'Ivoire after rebels controlling the north of the country signed a peace agreement with the government on January 24. But the diplomats said ECOWAS was keen to increase the size of its contingent to over 3,000 men for a period of at least six months to help oversee a disengagement and disarmament process that is due to begin shortly. The sources said the Netherlands have already offered a contribution of 500,000 euros ($580,000) to help pay for an enlarged West African peacekeeping force and have indicated that this sum may be doubled. Belgium has meanwhile pledged 625,000 euros ($712,000 euros), they added. But the sources said that that the US, France and Britain who contributed most of the initial $13 million cost of sending the ECOWAS force to Cote d'Ivoire for six months, were still considering whether to make any further financial commitment. The latest ceasefire between government and rebel forces, which took effect on May 3, has held up well across the country, despite continuing raids on villages by poorly disciplined militia forces employed by both sides in the conflict near the western border with Liberia. These were brought to an end by the deployment of several hundred French peacekeeping troops to the area at the end of May. Senior military commanders of the two sides in the conflict are due to meet on June 17 to discuss the location of quartering areas where the rebels will eventually assemble and disarm their fighters.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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