New York - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is recommending that 1 700 troops be cut from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the second drawdown in two years.
Ban said in a report to the Security Council released on Tuesday that a further cut could be decided if progress was made in rooting out rebel groups in the east.
The proposal, to be discussed at a council meeting next week, comes amid growing tensions in the DRC over elections in November and whether President Joseph Kabila will seek another term in office.
Ban said he was "deeply troubled by the rising political tensions associated with the electoral process" and warned of "a real risk of civil unrest and widespread violence if these tensions remain unaddressed”.
Kabila, in power since 2001, has not said publicly whether he intends to run for re-election.
The council in March voted to cut 2 000 troops from the 20 000-strong MONUSCO force, the UN's biggest peace operation.
"A further reduction of MONUSCO military personnel may be envisaged without compromising the mission's ability to implement its mandate to protect civilians, including the neutralization of armed groups," Ban said in the report.
"I therefore recommend that the Security Council, when reviewing the mission's mandate, consider a further reduction of 1 700 MONUSCO military personnel, in addition to the reduction of the 2 000 military personnel endorsed by the council," he said.
The council is due to vote before the end of March on renewing the mission's mandate.
Ban also called for talks with the Kinshasa government on an exit strategy to wind down the nearly two-decade-old mission, in line with repeated demands by President Laurent Kabila.
During last year's debate, Kabila sought an immediate cut of 6 000 troops and a clear commitment to shut down the UN peace operations in the near future.
While the council cut 2 000 troops from the force, the
drawdown did not affect the UN-mandated ceiling of about 21 000 forces, which
suggested that the council could decide to again boost UN troop presence in the