UN beefs up peace-making team

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IN AN EFFORT to bolster the ability of the United Nations to predict local conflicts before they break out, the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, has strengthened his peace-making team. The move is part of Mr Boutros-Ghali's plan to see the UN play a more active role in what he calls 'preventive diplomacy'.

Marrack Goulding, a former British diplomat who has been in charge of the UN's peace-keeping missions for the past seven years, is replacing Vladimir Petrovsky, an amiable but relatively ineffective Russian diplomat who was a former deputy foreign minister of the Soviet Union. Mr Goulding will be replaced by Kofi Annan of Ghana, who has worked at the UN for three decades and will now be in charge of the 60,000 UN troops and police under UN command in 13 different countries.

Although Mr Goulding will give up his command, his long experience will in effect enable him to combine 'peace-making' with the peace-keeping operations started by Dag Hammarskjold when he was secretary-general in 1960. This is how the job used to be structured under the the UN's first peace-keeping chief, Sir Brian Urquhart, who retired from his post in 1986.

In recent years UN troops, who used to be assigned to keep the peace after ceasefires and peace treaties had been arranged, have found themselves in the middle of civil wars and Mr Boutros- Ghali is trying to avert such actions. He spelt out the need for building a UN arm of 'preventive diplomacy' in his report, Agenda for Peace, which was submitted to the Security Council last summer.

The Secretary-General's report was strongly endorsed by the Security Council and the General Assembly.

Mr Goulding's title will be Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and he will be directly concerned with peace-making efforts in Europe, Asia, the former Soviet Union and Latin America. This means he will immediately focus his attention on trouble spots in Central America, countries of the former Yugoslavia, Georgia and Central Asia states of the old Soviet Union, the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan and South-east Asia.

Another under-secretary-general, James Jonah of Sierra Leone, will oversee peace-making in Africa and the Middle East.

Mr Petrovsky, who has been at the UN for several years and was generally found to have more progressive views than his masters in Moscow if he could be lured away from the presence of his KGB minders, is moving to Geneva to take charge of the United Nations offices there from Antoine Blanca of France. Mr Blanca is returning to the French government.

In a separate move, the Clinton administration has rejected a proposal by Mr Boutros-Ghali that the United States should relinquish the top management and budget post at the UN. The Clinton administration is insisting that an American remain in the senior management job if President Clinton is to be successful in persuading Congress to pay the more than dollars 400m (pounds 280m) that the United States owes the UN in unpaid dues and peace-keeping costs.