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Where the UN Hesitated to Tread, America and Angola Dared to Step In

US special envoy is in Africa this week to help bolster region's stability after yet another coup.

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The overthrow of the democratically elected government in Congo Republic earlier this month has become a test case for the United Nations and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, one that many say the world body has failed.

"This is just another step in the marginalization of the UN in the region," says Barnett Rubin, director of the center for preventive action for the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "There was a time when a peacekeeping operation made sense in Congo-Brazzaville. But the Security Council, led by the US, blocked it. UN credibility has been greatly reduced in the region."

Stepping in where the UN feared to tread was Angola.

Earlier this month, Angola sent about 3,500 troops backed by tanks and fighter planes into Congo to help Gen. Denis Sassou Nguesso, Congo's once and future military ruler, in his successful bid to topple President Pascal Lissouba.

General Sassou Nguesso previously ruled from 1979 to 1991, when a wave of democratic sentiment then sweeping Africa led to Mr. Lissouba's election.

The Angolan intervention, coming just months after it aided another successful coup in the other Congo, was seen as a bid to choke off support for UNITA, Angola's former rebel movement.

America's ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, who has called Angola "the key to peace" in the region, met with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on Congo this week. The visit was one of several Mr. Richardson made in a US effort to help stabilize the region.

"Ambassador Richardson pressed the issue of foreign troops in Congo-Brazzaville," says Julie Reside, press officer for Africa with the State Department.

"He stressed a departure date of Nov. 15, and the Angolan government said they would leave as soon as possible."

Ms. Reside said the US has not issued any ultimatum should the Angolans fail to meet the deadline, although it's possible aid would be cut off.

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