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UN dithers on peacekeeping for Somalia

THE United Nations Security Council has signaled its intent to set up a peacekeeping force in Somalia, holding back from a firm decision the Bush administration had sought but that its successor may not endorse.

The force plan, which African countries have long been calling for, was supported last month by outgoing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But UN officials and some council members say the situation in Somalia right now is too dangerous.

The proposed next US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, also voiced strong skepticism on Thursday over the plan and said the Obama administration, which takes office next Tuesday, would closely examine it.

In a resolution adopted unanimously on Friday by its 15 members, the council expressed "its intent to establish a UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia as a follow-on" to a small existing African Union (AU) force, known as AMISOM.

It said, however, that this should be subject to a further decision of the council by June 1. European diplomats said the situation was unsuitable now for a UN force and if it remained so by June 1 a decision would again be delayed.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since a dictatorship was overthrown in 1991. Islamists control most of the south, feuding clan militias hold sway elsewhere, and 3,000 Ethiopian troops backing the weak government pulled out last week. Diplomats said the resolution only passed because the United States backed away from its initial push for a firm commitment to a UN force.

The resolution said AMISOM would eventually be incorporated into any UN force. It urged the AU to increase it to the originally planned 8,000 troops and asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to set up a trust fund to provide financial support. AMISOM currently consists of 3,200 Ugandans and Burundians, who can't stop the factional violence in the Horn of Africa state.


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