, UNITED NATIONS , Apr 23 – A visit by a UN Security Council delegation to the Democratic Republic of Congo to discuss the future of the UN presence there has been rescheduled to mid-May, diplomats said Friday.
The planned trip via Paris was canceled last week when the eruption of Iceland\’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano sent a cloud of ash across much of Europe, crippling air traffic and forcing countries to close down their airspace.
Japan\’s UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu, who chairs the council this month, told reporters the 15 members agreed the delegation would make the trip before the mandate of the UN mission in DRC (MONUC) expires at the end of May.
A Western diplomat said the delegation, led by France\’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud, would arrive in Kinshasa on May 14 and leave the following day.
Kinshasa has asked for a complete pullout of the 20,000-strong MONUC by late August 2011, with the first departure of a contingent before next June 30, when the huge, mineral-rich central African country celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence from Belgium.
But most council members fear that a full withdrawal of the UN\’s largest peacekeeping mission by 2011 would be premature.
The consensus within the council is that DRC authorities will be unable to ensure security in the east of the country, where armed groups such as Rwandan Hutu rebels are causing havoc, by that date.
"We have to discuss with Congolese authorities the transition which will lead to the withdrawal of MONUC," Araud told reporters here earlier this month.
"This moment has not to be decided in an artificial way… For the moment, the situation remains extremely fragile, so we have to do it right rather than to do it quickly."
The French envoy said the talks in Kinshasa would specifically focus on "the best way" for the Congolese army, police and justice to exert effective state authority over the enormous country as a prelude to a MONUC withdrawal.