Irish soldiers' departure for Liberia delayed


A contingent of Irish soldiers due to leave Dublin for Liberia where they are to participate in the United Nations mission have had their departure put back after a supply aircraft en route from Moscow was delayed.

The soldiers from the Fourth Western Brigade who will form part of a motorised infantry battalion from Ireland, which will eventually comprise 430 members are now due to fly out tomorrow once clearance for the Antonov 124 to fly over some countries' airspace has been granted

The UN has committed a 15,000-strong peacemaking force to be drawn from 20 countries to Liberia. Its main tasks are to enforce a ceasefire between government forces and two rebel factions.

The force also intends to demobilise and disarm tens of thousands of rebels and begin reconstruction ahead of elections in 2005.

The Irish contingent will be used at first to prepare the way for establishing a UN presence in the jungle areas outside the capital, Monrovia. It will then operate as the force commander's rapid reaction reserve.

Initially, the deployment is for a year, but it is expected that the force could be there for up to four years. Irish officers will have leading roles in commanding it.