Demand for peacekeepers exceeds troops, funds - UN

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers are increasingly finding themselves deployed with too few troops, insufficient funds and in countries where there is hardly any peace to keep, a top U.N. official said on Friday.

"There is a constant strain now between mandates and resources ... expectations and our capacity to deliver," U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said in a speech to the U.N. Security Council. "United Nations peacekeeping is overstretched."

Analysts and diplomats say that the operations are headed for a crisis as demand for peacekeepers skyrockets while funds and troop reserves are getting harder to find.

They say the global financial crisis will likely make U.N. member states less willing to contribute to peacekeeping.

The peacekeeping budget, which pays for more than 110,000 U.N. troops and police deployed across the globe, approaches $8 billion.

European diplomats said the recent crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo highlights the problems facing U.N. peacekeeping.

Last year the council approved adding some 3,000 peacekeepers to a 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, the world's largest such U.N. operation. But months later, the peacekeeping department was still struggling to round up the troops needed for the Congo crisis.

Last week, the council authorized a 5,000-strong force for Chad and said it was considering one for Somalia.

"We must find short-term measures to close the gap between the troops and material we are able to raise, and the authorized (troop) levels needed to meet our mandates," Le Roy told the council.

"We must begin to find new potential contributors to the peacekeeping endeavor," he said.

While China is slowly entering into the world of peacekeeping, some Western council diplomats complain that Russia is not carrying its weight.

Le Roy said another problem is that peacekeepers are being deployed in countries where there is not much of a peace to keep. Even with ample resources, prospects for success in these environments are limited, he said.

"Over the past few years we see increasing signs of noncooperation from host governments and increased resistance from some parties to our presence and actions."

He said the joint U.N.-African Union force in Sudan's Darfur region "continues to face difficulties in deploying, while the parties on the ground are increasingly belligerent." (Editing by Xavier Briand)