New chief for UN force in Chad
Ndjamena - A UN negotiator heading talks with Chad on the future of a UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) has been made head of MINURCAT, a UN statement said on Thursday.
"The secretary-general of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-Moon has named Mr Youssef Mahmoud to the post of interim special representative as the head of MINURCAT, replacing Mr Victor Angelo, who left on retirement at the end of the month of March," the MINURCAT statement said.
Mahmoud, a Tunisian, was named to lead the mission while engaged in talks with a Chadian team headed by General Oki Dagache, special representative of Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno at the UN mission.
He had been due to leave Chad on Wednesday, but will stay for further talks and to head MINURCAT at least until May 15, when its current mandate expires.
MINURCAT's mandate was renewed in March by the UN Security Council to allow time for talks on the future of the force, which is tasked with protecting scores of thousands of displaced people and refugees and with facilitating aid work.
The Chadian authorities want the force scaled down and then to withdraw on the grounds that it has been "a failure", in Deby's words. The talks faltered this week on the number of UN troops and police to remain on the ground, according to a Chadian diplomatic source.
"We proposed to the UN to reduce the number of elements in MINURCAT to 400, which is largely sufficient to guard installations and civilian personnel, but the United Nations wants to keep 1 000 men," the source said.
The mission was created in 2007 to take over from a European force, EUFOR, that looked after Chadians and Central Africans displaced by insurgency in their own countries and refugees from Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, across the eastern border of Chad and the northeastern border of the CAR.
The UN and other organisations have expressed reservations at the idea of a possible withdrawal of the military component of MINURCAT fearing for the safety of those displaced.
The force included about 2 510 troops, 260 police, and 975 civilian personnel, according to its UN website as of last December.