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UN Security Council Considers Somalia Options

By Margaret Besheer
United Nations
20 March 2008

The U.N. Security Council is looking at options, proposed by the secretary general, for stabilizing Somalia. They include the possibility of sending a U.N. peacekeeping force to that country to take over from the small African Union force currently there. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Diplomats say sending a U.N. peacekeeping force to Somalia is not an immediate possibility. But it is one of several options Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has laid out for the council to consider in a new report on the situation in Somalia.

Zalmay Khalilzad is the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

"We are not close to deploying the peacekeeping forces, but we are looking at a variety of options: the political presence of the U.N., what you could do in terms of maritime activities, what you could do in terms of strengthening AMISOM [The African Union Mission in Somalia], and considering under what circumstances one might do peacekeeping," he noted.

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet, expressed concern to the council about sending peacekeepers into Somalia while the security situation remains inconsistent throughout the country and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is unable to maintain law and order.

"The security situation in many parts of Somalia, and particularly Mogadishu, remains complex, volatile and unpredictable," he noted. "Due to the complexity of the conflict, shifting alliances and extremist activity, the situation in south and central Somalia can change daily, making any location that is safe one day, potentially dangerous the next."

In his report, Mr. Ban laid out four scenarios for possible future developments in Somalia. Two include international troop deployments, but only if key conditions on the ground are met.

In one of those scenarios, Mr. Ban envisages improvements in both the political and security situations resulting in the consideration of a phased withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Mogadishu. Ethiopian forces have been assisting Somalia's transitional government for more than a year in its battle against an Islamist-led insurgency.

Under this scenario, Mr. Ban foresees a stabilization force of about 8,000 troops and police to prevent a security vacuum.

In another scenario, the U.N. chief says a viable political process, involving a power sharing agreement among the parties and the renunciation of violence, could lead to the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces and the deployment of more than 28,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops to succeed the current African Union mission. That mission is made up of about 2,300 troops from Uganda and Burundi.

But in the current political and security climate, the secretary-general is only recommending the relocation of a limited number of U.N. staff from Kenya to Mogadishu and other parts of south and central Somalia. He also proposes the possibility of a Maritime Task Force, which would expand current French and Danish efforts to protect ships carrying humanitarian aid from pirates off Somalia's coast.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown.

Since an Ethiopian military campaign ousted Somali Islamists from power in December 2006, Islamist-led groups have been waging a violent anti-government insurgency.

The United Nations warns that violence and instability have left some two million Somalis in need of humanitarian assistance and displaced one million people from their homes.

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