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KINSHASA (Reuters) - The United Nations is investigating reports that some of its peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo have been involved in sexual abuse, its Congo mission said on Tuesday.
The U.N. mission has been hit by a number of sex scandals involving its military and civilian staff since it was dispatched to Congo in 1999 and a number of peacekeepers have been sent home as a result of investigations.
"We heard that some of our military were found in a very uncomfortable position," Alexandre Essome, a spokesman for the U.N. mission, said by telephone, when asked about reports that peacekeepers had been accused of sexual abuse in the eastern town of Goma.
No further information was available on who was alleged to be involved.
Essome said the allegations had been made by the Congolese authorities and U.N. military police were now investigating.
"We have a very clear policy on this issue. If this turns out to be true its very serious," Essome added.
The U.N., which has around 17,000 peacekeepers in Congo, has had a turbulent relationship with Kinshasa over the years.
It has helped prop up its army in fighting against rebels in the east and organised post-war elections in 2006 but it has been accused by rights groups of failing to do enough to prevent abuses against civilians, often committed by government forces.
It is now also under pressure from President Joseph Kabila to wind down its mission by the end of this year.