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United States Welcomes Approval of Somalia Peacekeeping Force

21 February 2007

Mission's authorization an "important moment" for Somalia, United States says

United Nations -- The Security Council vote authorizing an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia was an important moment for the people of Somalia, U.S. officials say.

The Security Council February 20 unanimously authorized the AU mission for an initial period of six months and instructed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to investigate the possibility of the United Nations taking over the operation at a later date.  It also instructed the secretary-general to report back in 60 days with recommendations for the United Nation’s “further engagement in support of peace and security in Somalia.”

The United States was a co-sponsor of the resolution, along with the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Panama, Slovakia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey called the vote "an important moment for the people of Somalia."

"It's an opportunity for them after many, many years to have a fully functioning government, and we certainly want to do what we can to support that and help ensure peace in that country," Casey said.

The resolution, the State Department spokesman said, provides important support for the African Union in its effort to mount another peacekeeping mission in Africa.  It shows "the broader support of the international community," he said.

Casey encouraged nations to step forward and provide troops for the mission.

The African Union said earlier in the month that Burundi, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda have offered a total of about 4,000 troops.  Although the current resolution does not mention the mission's size, the AU previously endorsed a plan to send 8,000 troops into the east African nation, which has been torn apart by civil war since 1991.

The new mission, to be known as AMISOM, will provide protection for the U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Institutions to help them carry out government functions and provide security for key infrastructure.  AMISOM also will support the dialogue and reconciliation process in Somalia by helping to provide free movement, safe passage and protection for those involved in the process. The peacekeepers also will provide security for humanitarian operations.

The resolution, adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, authorizes AMISOM "to take all necessary measures as appropriate" to fulfill its mandate.

The resolution recognizes that AMISOM will help with the initial stabilization phase and will "evolve into a United Nations operation that will support the long-term stabilization and post-conflict restoration of Somalia."  AMISOM, the resolution said, will help avoid a security vacuum and create the conditions for the full withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops that helped Somali troops repel Islamist rebels in December 2006.

The Security Council also eased the arms embargo imposed on the country in 1992 to allow "weapons and military equipment and technical training and assistance intended solely for the support of or use by" the peacekeepers.

Resolution 1744 overrides a December 2006 resolution that authorized an operation led by a regional group, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development , which had a more limited mandate.

The United States initiated the December 2006 resolution in an effort to stabilize the situation and help start a critical dialogue between the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Union of Islamic Courts.

Ambassador John Bolton, who was the chief U.S. envoy to the United Nations at the time, said that the United States "views the deployment of a regional force to Somalia as a key element in preventing conflict" and "a critical element to help resume credible dialogue."  The United States, Bolton said, will work with its African and other partners toward that end.

For more information on U.S. policy in the region, see Peace and Security.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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