By Callum Paton.
Tripoli, 18 December 2013:
Authorities have blocked requests made by the UN Security Council for the deployment of a 235-strong . . .[restrict]guard unit for the protection of UN staff. The rejection was made on the grounds that the force would interfere with the fragile security situation in the country.
Speaking to a press conference yesterday, the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Tarek Mitri, told reporters that the UN had reiterated that the task of the guard unit was of limited scope and that its establishment was an ordinary measure that is taken by diplomatic missions. He added that the Libyan government’s refusal to allow the formation of a UN guard brigade was based on a misunderstanding.
The government had previously agreed to the formation of the unit after blocking the request the first time it was submitted. Speaking to the UN Security Council last week, Mitri said that some groups had gone so far as “suspecting the proposed arrangement to be a prelude to international intervention.” He went on the say that UNSMIL had “issued clarifications and had to state the obvious”.
The UNSMIL head told journalists yesterday that “the format and size of the guard unit is currently under review, so as to calm some worries and avoid any tendency towards unfounded explanations and assumptions, as well as avoid overstating the significance of an ordinary measure”.
As to whether the UN mission in Libya might have to rein back some of its programmes in light of the decision, Mitri said that UNSMIL’s activities would carry on as usual. The UN had asked for the brigade to protect its mission in “a context of insecurity which had prevailed for many months”, but the organisation’s Libya chief told reporters that his staff could not expect to stop working in a security situation that the people they hoped to help also had to endure. [/restrict]