* A few months before 3,000 extra peacekeepers arrive
* Force still needs a transport plane and 16 helicopters
By Patrick Worsnip
UNITED NATIONS, July 10 The top U.N. official in Democratic Republic of Congo signaled further delays on Friday in the arrival of around 3,000 extra peacekeepers meant to shore up the hard-pressed U.N. mission there.
Alan Doss, head of the mission known as MONUC, who predicted in May the reinforcements for the 17,000 U.N. troops already in Congo would start arriving in July, said it could now be up to another three months before they showed up.
The Security Council approved the extra troops in November as clashes between government soldiers and Congolese Tutsi fighters in Congo's eastern borderlands threatened to spark yet another Great Lakes regional war.
Though that threat has now receded, violence has continued in the mineral-rich region. But it has been hard to get the new forces in place even though Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan and Tanzania have now agreed to provide them.
"So far, I have to be frank, none of those troops are in-country," Doss told reporters after briefing the Security Council. "I hope that they will be so in the next two to three months. "We have reasonable assurances now that the first elements will start to arrive in the next couple of months."
Belgium is providing a C-130 military transport aircraft and Uruguay two military helicopters, but Doss told the council MONUC still needed another C-130 and 16 more helicopters.
Aerial imaging and signals technologies to track leaders of Rwandan and Ugandan rebel groups based in eastern Congo would also be "most useful," he said.
Although Congo's 1998-2003 war has officially ended, the vast Central African nation's eastern provinces remain plagued by lingering fighting between the army, foreign rebels, and home-grown insurgents and militias.
MONUC backs Congo army operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu rebel group seen as a root cause of the violence in eastern Congo, and the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army.
But aid agencies have criticized the drives for sparking rebel reprisals on local civilians rather than stabilizing the situation. The Congolese army, partly comprised of former rebels, has itself been accused of rape, pillage and murder.
In his address to the council, Doss acknowledged that the operations had led to "serious humanitarian consequences" for civilians, and said MONUC had sought to address this by increasing its presence in the region.
But in an article for the Washington Times newspaper on Friday, he rejected suggestions by what he called "well meaning observers" that MONUC should withdraw from joint operations. "Such a move would not end the brutality and might well perpetuate it," he wrote. (Editing by Mohammad Zargham)