UNITED NATIONS, May 1 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations will continue to use Fijian police and soldiers in its current peacekeeping missions, but will not increase their numbers in future deployments, said the UN political chief here on Friday.
"There has been an understanding that the number of peacekeepers from Fiji will not increase," said Under-Secretary-general for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe during a conference hosted by the Women's Foreign Policy Group at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Pascoe said that the United Nations has more Fijian police working under its peacekeeping mandate than soldiers -- police, which were "not involved in the coup and tried to oppose" the 2006coup initiated by military leader Frank Bainimarama.
Fiji has approximately 2,000 troops on UN peacekeeping duties in conflict zones such as Sudan and Iraq. Hundreds of Fiji soldiers and police provide security for UN operations in Iraq's capital Baghdad -- a contract that will not be affected by the latest arrangements, Pascoe said.
Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that his government had successfully lobbied the United Nations to ban future deployments of Fijian troops in UN peacekeeping missions.
"The United Nations now is not going to engage future or new Fijian troops for new operations," Rudd told reporters. "The revenue remittances to Fiji from Fijian forces working with UN operations around the world are important sources of revenue back into the military families, in particular within Fiji."
In the past few weeks, the Fijian military has tightened its grip on power, suspending the national constitution, denying press freedom, and undermining the judiciary body's independence, reports said.
The UN peacekeeping department is divided into several sections including police, military, security and disarmament. In March, the United Nations had a total of 10,382 police, 79,370 soldiers, and 2,498 observers in its military and police forces.
Criteria for selecting peacekeeping forces are virtually non-existent, said Pascoe, simply because "quite frankly it's not all that easy" to enlist the numbers needed for the many peacebuilding missions around the world.
"But we do need to have protection for our people out there," he said, "and that, sometimes, is an agreement that as with all politics is not necessarily ideal."