| UNITED NATIONS
UNITED NATIONS May 12 The United Nations has
shelved plans to deploy surveillance drones as part of its
peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast due to improved security,
but is now seeking a company to provide the unarmed aircraft for
its peacekeeping mission in Mali.
The United Nations wants to expand its use of unmanned
aerial vehicles after it successfully deployed the aircraft for
the first time in December - to aid U.N. peacekeepers in
Democratic Republic of Congo.
It has called for companies to submit expressions of
interest to provide surveillance drones for Mali, based in the
northern towns of Timbuktu and Gao. The deadline is Wednesday,
according to the request by the United Nations.
"It is expected that contracts will be for a period of 3
years," it said. "UAV capability should provide long endurance
and be able to fly long range to a point of interest, loiter on
patrol and return to base."
Al Qaeda-linked fighters hijacked a rebellion by Tuareg
separatists in the Mali's desert north after a 2012 army coup.
France began an intervention more than a year ago which
scattered the insurgents across Mali and into neighboring
countries, but in recent months the Islamist groups have stepped
up their operations.
A U.N. peacekeeping force, known as MINUSMA, assumed
authority on July 1 from a U.N.-backed African force in Mali.
But while the U.N. Security Council mandated a 12,600-strong
force, there are only some 7,500 troops on the ground.
In Ivory Coast the United Nations is gradually reducing the
size of its peacekeeping force. The world's top cocoa grower is
emerging from a decade of political turmoil that ended in a
brief post-election civil war in 2011 when former president
Laurent Gbagbo rejected the victory of rival Alassane Ouattara.
"The deployment of UAVs in (Ivory Coast) may no longer be
warranted due to changed operational requirements and an
improved security situation," said one U.N. peacekeeping
official familiar with the issue.
"Their deployment has been put on hold until further notice
and consultations with the government continue," he said.
The West African country had asked the United Nations to
consider deploying drones along its border with Liberia to
offset the planned reduction in peacekeepers. Western Ivory
Coast had been the target of deadly raids blamed on supporters
Ivory Coast's defense minister, Paul Koffi Koffi, told
Reuters that a final decision on the deployment of the
surveillance drones by the United Nations would likely be made
"There were some differences of opinion, but it is still in
discussion," he said.
(Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Abidjan; Editing by