Labour and Lib Dems propose reform of the United Nations

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Britain today called for the United Nations to create a military inspectorate and staff college to command and train U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world.

Britain today called for the United Nations to create a military inspectorate and staff college to command and train U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world.

The centre could be located in Britain, according to a report released by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.

"No longer must U.N. 'blue helmets' stand by while the most serious crimes against humanity are being committed," said the report by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats.

The joint report, released ahead of the U.N.'s Millennium Summit in New York, a gathering of 150 world leaders, echoes recommendations made last month by a U.N.-appointed international panel.

The panel recommended a total overhaul of U.N. peacekeeping, including the creation of the equivalent of a ministry of defense to modernise and professionalise the peacekeepers so troops can deploy rapidly and take action in clear cases of aggression.

The U.N.'s peacekeeping role has come under fire in recent years after questions about the U.N.'s passive performance in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, which was supposed to be a U.N.-protected enclave.

The latest embarrassment came in May when some 500 U.N. peacekeepers were seized by rebels in the west African nation of Sierra Leone.

The British report agrees the United Nations must provide better-trained and better-equipped peacekeepers who can respond quickly to aggression.

But Mr Cook and Mr Campbell, speaking to the BBC, also called on the United Nations to go even further: They pushed for the establishment of a military staff college to train peackeepers and a central command center to offer stronger leadership.

"Britain would be a very logical place to have it because of our expertise in peacekeeping and our commitment to the United Nations," Mr Cook said.

Currently, just 32 officers at U.N. headquarters oversee some 27,000 U.N. troops from 20 countries scattered across the globe in 14 peacekeeping operations.

The British report also said the United Nations should require member states to provide quarterly assessments of the soldiers available for peacekeeping operations.

Additionally, the report urged the United Nations to restruture its peacekeeping role to focus more on conflicts within countries rather than between nations, and to allow intervention in countries where the likelihood of mass murder exists.

Mr Cook told the BBC that the United Nations also should work to make the Security Council "more representative of the world as it is today" by inviting members from other regions of the world, such as Africa and South America, to sit on it.

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