UN Urge Africa Somalia Peacekeepers

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The Security Council urged the African Union on Friday to quickly send peacekeepers to Somalia so that Ethiopia could withdraw its forces and the government could lift its emergency security measures.

The 15-nation U.N. council, in a statement, also backed the rapid deployment of a U.N. technical assistance mission to Somalia to make recommendations on future security needs. Somali government forces backed by Ethiopia's military routed Islamist troops in a two-week war over Christmas and New Year.

But the capital Mogadishu and other parts of the country have since been rocked by sporadic violence, prompting the African Union (AU) to offer to assemble a peacekeeping force and send it into the fragile northeast African nation before the Ethiopian troops leave.

However, the Islamist soldiers who had held Mogadishu for six months after seizing it last June say they oppose African peacekeepers. Since their defeat, the Islamists have scattered to southern Somalia, and across to Kenya, some vowing a long guerrilla war against the government.

The Security Council statement, read by Slovak Ambassador Peter Burian, the council president for February, welcomed the AU offer of peacekeepers. It "underlined the urgency of its deployment in order to help create the conditions for the withdrawal of all other foreign forces from Somalia and the lifting of emergency security measures currently in place."

The council issued the statement after a closed-door briefing by Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs. Gambari, in his briefing, stressed there was now a window of opportunity for world governments to help restore stability and establish central rule in Somalia, diplomats said.
The country has been in chaos since 1991 when the ouster of a dictator turned it into a patchwork of feuding warlords.

Gambari told the council that a team of U.N. officials would meet with the African Union next week to discuss how it could help get the AU force up and running, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said. Gambari also emphasized the importance of political dialogue and inclusiveness among all Somalia's political factions, Haq told reporters.


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