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UN asks Brazil for peacekeepers for Central African Republic

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The United Nations has asked Brazil to send troops to join its peace mission in the Central African Republic, said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the U.N.’s head of peacekeeping operations, in an interview Monday.

The U.N. Security Council approved this month the deployment of an additional 900 peacekeepers to protect civilians in the impoverished landlocked nation, where violence broke out between Muslims and Christians in 2013.

Lacroix said violence had increased in the east, largely due to a security vacuum left by the departure of Ugandan troops, who had been part of a separate U.S.-supported African Union task force tracking Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

The request for troops from Brazil, which has just ended a 13-year mission in Haiti, must be agreed to by President Michel Temer and approved by the Brazilian Congress.

“Brazil has a huge degree of know-how and professionalism and we definitely need those kinds of troops in our peacekeeping operations,” Lacroix told Reuters in Brazil’s capital, ahead of a meeting with the top brass of the country’s armed forces.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, United Nations' Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, attends an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 27, 2017.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, attends an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 27, 2017.

The troops did a “fantastic, really exceptional” job in Haiti, where they improved the security situation by establishing a relationship of trust with the Haitian population and exhibited good conduct and discipline, he said.

Brazil is emerging from its worst recession on record and a huge government budget deficit could weigh on a decision to send more troops abroad, though its contribution to peacekeeping has enhanced the South American nation’s international influence.

U.N. peacekeeping forces are facing the pinch of the United States pushing to reduce costs. Washington pays more than 28 percent of the $7.3 billion annual U.N. peacekeeping budget.

In June, the U.N. agreed to $600 million in cuts to more than a dozen missions for the year ending June 30, 2018.

Lacroix said the peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast had been closed, troop deployment in Sudan’s Darfur was being reduced, and next year the peacekeeping operation in Liberia would be closed down.

“There is an expectation that we be prudent and use our resources in the most cost-effective way we can,” said Lacroix, a French diplomat who has been in the role since April.

The political objectives and efficiency of almost all of the U.N.’s 15 peacekeeping operations worldwide were under review, Lacroix said.

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