World Powers Not Ready For Military Intervention

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations wants an intervention plan ready in case Burundi explodes in violence, but few countries have offered troops for a multinational force and no major military power is willing to lead the mission.


"We have to move very quickly before everything blows up in our faces," Kofi Annan, the head of UN peacekeeping, said Wednesday. "History will judge us rather severely for Rwanda and I don't think we can repeat that experience in Burundi."


Rwanda has repeatedly accused the United Nations of standing aside as government troops and allied militiamen slaughtered 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis, in 1994. Burundi and Rwanda share a similar ethnic composition.


Several European countries and the United States have offered logistics support for a mission, but only three countries -- Zambia, Malawi and Chad -- have offered soldiers.


The Security Council said Wednesday it was "gravely concerned" by reports that the Burundian military had apparently forced the president from power and "strongly condemns any attempt to overthrow the present legitimate government by force or coup d'etat."


U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright warned that "the international community will not acquiesce in efforts to solve Burundi's crisis by military means."


Annan said U.N. officials were working on two contingency plans, one to provide aid if invited in by the government and a more aggressive mission that could forcefully intervene if the country collapsed.


But no major military power is willing to command a mission that may have to use force to stop ethnic carnage and the African troops that have been offered would need training and equipment before they could go in.


The United Nations had earlier asked member states to create a standby force, but "now that the pressure is on, the membership may agree to consider a UN-funded operation," Annan said. "If we can generate some support for it, we will go forward."


The Organization of African Unity is urging Burundi to accept an African peacekeeping force and Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda have volunteered to contribute 9,000 soldiers to that force, Annan said.


He suggested that those troops could join a UN mission and UN funding would encourage other donors.


In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said any U.S. role would be limited to logistical support, planning and communications. "I think there's no prospect whatsoever of American troops," Burns said.


A UN force could be deployed with human rights monitors, Annan said, and could create zones to protect civilians from troops or militia.


If troops were deployed "we are hoping ... to use our presence to calm the situation to protect as many lives as we can and give the political process a chance to move forward," Annan said.


Some 150,000 people have been killed in three years of ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi.