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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

SOMALIA: Annan expresses concern over mounting tension in the north

NAIROBI, 21 January 2004 (IRIN) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed deep concern over rising tension in northern Somalia between the self-declared republic of Somaliland and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland over the disputed region of Sool.

Both Somaliland and Puntland claim the regions of Sool and Sanaag as theirs, and there have been reports of troop build-ups and preparations for conflict.

A statement read by the Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said: "The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the increased tension between the administrations of 'Puntland' and 'Somaliland' over Las Anod in Sool Region, which threatens the outbreak of hostilities at a critical time in the Somali peace process."

The statement went to say that Annan was calling on the two sides "to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from the use of force", and urging them to seek solutions through dialogue.

Tension has been rising between the two sides ever since Puntland forces took control of the Sool regional capital, Las Anod, late last month.

Sool and Sanaag fall geographically within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland, but most of the clans there are associated with clans in Puntland.

Awad Ahmad Ashara, Puntland's spokesman, told IRIN that armed conflict seemed imminent.

Annan called on the parties to protect civilians and ensure unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance.

According to the statement, the secretary-general called on all the "Somali parties to reach agreement on national reconciliation that would put an end to all the fighting and bloodshed in the country."

Talks sponsored by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development with a view to bringing peace to Somalia have been going on in Kenya for over a year. However, the talks have been dogged by wrangles over issues such as an interim charter, the number of participants in the negotiations and the selection and number of future parliamentarians.

 

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict

[ENDS]

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