Jean-Pierre Lacroix, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, was quoted today in media reports as saying that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is about to deploy up to 250 Nepalese guards to protect its offices in Tripoli.
The statement of Mr Lacroix was echoed by Ghassan Salame, the mission’s head, when he was asked about it today in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper. “There will be a few less than 250 people who will protect the UN buildings. I'll talk to the commander now. I hope that the people involved in the protection will arrive within the coming weeks and that we will be able to move a substantial part of our activities back to Libya starting the beginning of October,” Mr Salame told the German publication.
“UNSMIL categorically denies circulated news reports claiming that the UN plans to deploy a UN peacekeeping force to Libya. The Special Representative has repeatedly said that UNSMIL is progressively returning to Libya, increasing its staff presence including security personnel who are tasked with only guarding the UN staff inside the UN compound in Tripoli.
UNSMIL is a political mission and its mandate, as set by the UN Security Council, does not allow the presence of a peacekeeping force (or as mentioned Blue Helmets) to operate in Libya. UNSMIL reiterates its full commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity and unity of Libya.”
The rebuttal's wording indicates that it was designed only to deny reports that the U.N. was planning to deploy Blue Helmets, U.N.’s military peacekeeping forces, but at the same time it implied that the news about the 250 Nepalese guards is true. This could be read in the line confirming the mission's plan to extend the size of its staff in Libya: "UNSMIL is progressively returning to Libya, increasing its staff presence including security personnel" and to distinguish between the security guards and a peacekeeping force the rebuttal goes on to explain: "who are tasked with only guarding the UN staff inside the UN compound in Tripoli".
UNSMIL has three buildings in Tripoli including the main office which is located in Tripoli’s western suburb of Janzour inside a well-guarded tourist resort known as Palm City. A well-informed source told The Libya Times that it was Mr Salame who demanded an increase in the number of UNSMIL’s security staff before he could allow the mission to return to Tripoli. “Salame knows very well the importance of a strong security presence having already survived a car-bomb attack that killed the head of the U.N. mission to Iraq in 2003,” added the source who asked to remain unnamed.