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By Davila Waqausa

SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 29, 2001 – Sun)---Fiji’s proposal to the United Nations to have peacekeeping troops deployed to East Timor has not been accepted.

And if Fiji is going to be asked by the United Nations to be part of the peacekeeping process in Afghanistan, it has to have consultations with the commander of the military forces and then be sanctioned by the Government.

This was disclosed by Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Major General George Konrote yesterday.

When Fiji troops were told of their demobilization next year from Lebanon in the Middle East, the Government approached the UN for alternative conflict areas for deployment.

Major General Konrote said the Government’s proposal was not accepted by the UN because it is downsizing.

The Government was actually looking at deploying more forces for peacekeeping duties to East Timor, but that was rejected.

"The United Nations, yes, we had done that initially when we were told officially that our troops were going to be pulled out of the Middle East.

"So we were making enquiries to the UN as to whereabouts in the world, conflict areas, where we can send troops.

"We were thinking of East Timor to send more troops to.

"That has not been accepted because the UN is downsizing the force.

"The long term plan is for them to reduce the size of the military and because of that we did not pursue it further," he said.

Major General Konrote said at the moment, the U.S. and British forces are spearheading the group for Afghanistan and about 3,000 troops already are on the ground.

However, there are plans to increase the peace monitoring force to 5,000, to provide security.

He added he is unaware of any mandate or their memorandum of understanding but currently arrangements are now being made to boost deployment of more troops.

"I believe if they are going to look at a long term solution for the problem in Afghanistan, there’s to be a big boost in the force, but then that has to be sanctioned by the UN Security Council for countries to start deploying troops," he said.

"If Fiji is asked to contribute troops, we will have to consult with the Commander. It has to be sanctioned by Cabinet and Government before sending them.

"And everything has to be done in direct consultation with the Commander of the RFMF because there is no way we are going to send in troops anywhere when we have commitments elsewhere, bearing in mind our own security situation too.

"We did ask the UN -- not specifically for Afghanistan -- but that was not accepted," Major General Konrote said.

He added that it would be ideal if the UN did propose for Fiji to send troops to Afghanistan considering the plan to pull out troops from the Middle East

For additional reports from the Fiji Sun, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Sun.

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