US pushes for UN Somalia force in draft resolution

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The United States circulated a draft Security Council resolution on Monday that would firm up a plan to deploy a U.N. peacekeeping force in war-torn Somalia to replace an existing African Union force.

The plan, which African countries have long been calling for, has been supported by outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but U.N. officials and some Security Council members have objected that the situation is too dangerous.

The draft sent to Washington's 14 partners on the Security Council, expresses the council's "intent to establish a United Nations peacekeeping operation ... in Somalia as a follow-on force" to the current AU force, known as AMISOM.

It says, however, that this should be subject to a further decision of the Security Council by June 1. Diplomats said the resolution was likely to pass because it did not specifically authorize a force or set a date for deploying one.

AMISOM was originally meant to consist of 8,000 troops but only 3,200 Ugandans and Burundians are so far deployed and have been able to do little to stem the rampant factional violence in the Horn of Africa state.

Islamists control most of southern Somalia, feuding clan militias hold sway elsewhere, and 3,000 Ethiopian troops backing the weak government are now pulling out.

The U.S. draft calls on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to develop by April 15 a mandate for the proposed U.N. force, whose tasks, it says, should be to assist aid delivery, protect politicians and U.N. staff, monitor ceasefires and build up Somali security forces.

The U.S. plan envisages that AMISOM would eventually be incorporated into the new force. It urges the AU to increase AMISOM to the originally planned 8,000 troops and asks Ban to set up a trust fund to provide financial support.

Rice got a skeptical reception from some when she pushed for a U.N. force at the United Nations last month.

"The situation is not ripe, the conditions are not favorable," Ban said. Asked if Rice's proposal was realistic, France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said: "No, it is not ... We think it's not feasible and it's not desirable."

Previous involvement by outside powers in Somalia ended badly. Eighteen U.S. soldiers died and 73 were wounded in the "Battle of Mogadishu" in October, 1993. The battle, which inspired the film "Black Hawk Down," marked the beginning of the end for a U.S.-U.N. peacekeeping force that left in 1995.

Ban told the Security Council last November a multinational force of around 10,000 troops would be needed to stabilize Somalia. Only after that could a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 22,500 troops be deployed.

But after contacting some 50 countries, Ban said none had volunteered to lead a stabilization force and only one or two would be willing to provide troops.

(Editing by Chris Wilson)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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