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UN on the spot over cover up claims

UNITED NATIONS, April 28 – The United Nations denied a report that it had covered up trafficking in gold and arms by Indian and Pakistani peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

"The report is based on allegations two to three years old which have been investigated by OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services)," said Marie Okabe, deputy spokeswoman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. 

"Much of the new information presented by the report is either hearsay or comes from sources such as militia leaders whose integrity and motivations are highly questionable as they themselves were arrested and put in prison by MONUC (UN mission in DRC) peacekeepers," Okabe said. 

"The direct implication that senior UN officials were involved in a cover-up concerning these allegations is untrue. The allegation that the UN covered up claims that its peacekeepers trafficked their weapons because of political sensitivities is false," she said. 

In May 2007, MONUC announced an investigation into possible trafficking in gold and arms by peacekeepers deployed in 2005 in Ituri, in the northeast of DR Congo. 

The announcement came after a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation implicating peackeepers in Pakistan’s contingent were engaged in trafficking with the FNI militia, one of five armed groups active in Ituri. 

The BBC alleged that the trafficking began in 2005 and cited witnesses who described secret negotiations between Pakistani blue helmets and FNI militia commanders known as "Kung-fu" and "Dragon" in Mongwalu. 

In its latest report aired on Monday, the BBC said Indian solders were also implicated in the trafficking and UN sources were quoted as saying they had been discouraged from pursuing an investigation for political reasons. 

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Pakistan and India are two of the biggest contributors to UN peacekeeping missions. 

The UN’s investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services "found cases of misconduct by a handful of individuals but no evidence of systematic wrongdoing," Okabe said. 

"The allegations of gold trafficking concern three individuals, one has to be careful not to smear the whole country’s contingent at the UN as a whole on the basis of individuals’ actions," Okabe said. 

After the internal probe the United Nations demanded Pakistani authorities punish the soldiers implicated in the case, including the commander, according to an April 15 letter to the BBC from Jean-Marie Guehenno, chief of UN operations, which was released Monday.

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