Subject: Holbrooke Slams UN Peacekeeping on AIDS Prevention

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Holbrooke Slams UN Peacekeeping on AIDS Prevention By Irwin Arieff 12/22/00

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke accused the U.N. peacekeeping staff on Friday of doing too little to prevent AIDS from being spread to -- and by -- U.N. soldiers based in global hot-spots.

Holbrooke also criticized the Security Council for holding a meeting behind closed doors to review U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) efforts to protect troops from infection as well as from spreading the deadly HIV virus.

"We find DPKO's implementation of this resolution inadequate and insufficient, given the gravity of the problem," Holbrooke told reporters. "We cannot have a situation where AIDS is being spread by peacekeepers."

Members of the 15-nation council had been briefed privately by Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno on how a council resolution on AIDS, adopted in July at Holbrooke's urging, was being implemented.

Guehenno told the council that training and AIDS awareness programs were now a part of every U.N. mission, according to chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard.

But Holbrooke said DPKO was understaffed and overworked and the program should be made into a separate office.

"While the DPKO has made a start, it is not enough," he said. "They don't seem seized with this."

He singled out East Timor, under U.N. administration as it prepares for independence next year, as an example of the need for a more aggressive program.


Before the arrival of foreign troops, Holbrooke said, there were no reported cases of AIDS in the tiny south Asian nation. But since their arrival, first under an Australian-led force and then under U.N. jurisdiction, there have been 20 reported cases, he said.

"Peacekeepers bring AIDS with them and take AIDS home, and we now have 20 reported cases. Given the incubation period and the detection period, they could have come from (the) U.N. or they could have come from a different source," he said.

A U.N. peacekeeping official defended the way the council resolution had been carried out and said the department was trying to check out Holbrooke's comments on East Timor.

"We educate, train and prevent, so we have done everything we are required to do," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We take this very seriously, and it is unclear where we are failing in terms of our mission," the official added. "We provide training; we provide condoms to all peacekeepers and to all people on missions. We take all precautionary measures."

AIDS has killed more than 20 million people in the last two decades, including 3 million people last year alone, with Africa, the site of numerous peacekeeping missions, the hardest hit. Some 36 million people worldwide, including 25 million in Africa, are infected with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, the current council president, said U.S. envoys had not at first asked for an open meeting.

"We decided that the nature of the briefing was more monitoring what the DPKO was doing and put it as consultations," which are held behind closed doors, he said. "Then the United States said it wanted a more open meeting. I explained why we put it as consultations, and they accepted."

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