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UN seeks support for Somalia to boost security

UNITED Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged international donors today to provide more funds to help Somalia fight piracy and restore order after two decades of anarchy.

Ban made his plea shortly before a conference began in Brussels at which donors are being asked for more than US$250 million to help Somalia's new government boost security and stop gangs hijacking ships off the east African country's coast.

Addressing reporters after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Ban said: "Both President Barroso and I agreed that restoring security and stability in Somalia is vital to the success of the reconciliation effort and the survival of the unity government."

"Much remains to be done," he said.

Ban reiterated he had no intention of sending a UN force to Somalia any time soon, saying a peacekeeping operation would go only when "circumstances and conditions are appropriate".

Organisers of the meeting, chaired by Ban and the African Union, say more than US$250 million is needed for next year to improve security in a state which has functioned without a central government since 1991 and is mired in conflict.

Also due to attend is Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel leader elected in January at UN-brokered talks and widely seen as the best hope for restoring stability.

Somali officials in Brussels did not immediately comment on the return to Somalia of hardline Islamist opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on the US list of terrorism suspects for alleged links to al Qaeda.

An Islamist group said today he had returned to Somalia in his first known trip to the Horn of Africa nation since being ousted two years ago.


The UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah told Reuters he hoped the Brussels meeting, involving dozens of countries and big international organisations, could agree on a 100-day plan to help Somalia build up its security forces and restore stability.

Somali gangs have made millions of dollars seizing vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, driving up insurance rates and other costs in the key sea lanes linking Europe to Asia.

The attacks have worsened, despite the presence of naval forces from more than a dozen countries, including task forces under NATO, EU and US command.

NATO's four-ship mission is due to wind up its operation on Thursday. Diplomats are discussing if it can be extended.

A NATO spokesman said alliance Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was also pressing for a longer-term mission and tougher rules to allow the detention of captured suspects.

The United States, to be represented by acting Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Carter, is reviewing its Somalia policy and plans to help build Somali security forces and bolster the new government.

But Carter says Washington had learned from its mistakes in the 1990s, when a peacekeeping mission ended in shambles and a US withdrawal, and had no desire to "drive" the whole process.

EU officials said the aim was to build up a police force of some 10,000 personnel and a security force of 5,000, from 3,000 and 2,000 respectively now, they said.


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