France warns against cuts to UN force in Congo before voting

France's U.N. ambassador is warning against cuts to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo when the country is heading toward elections and facing an upsurge in violence and deteriorating security.

Francois Delattre told reporters Tuesday that the Security Council "shouldn't play with fire when it comes to such an important issue."

The United States, the largest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping, is seeking cuts and reviewing all 16 missions. The Congo mission, with about 22,400 people including nearly 17,000 troops and over 1,350 police, is the biggest and costliest with a budget of $1.2 billion.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said that during a closed council discussion there was some support for cutting numbers but also concern that this year isn't the time to reduce the mission's ability to protect civilians.