Somalia

Visiting Somalia, UN's top political official urges reconciliation

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During an unannounced visit to Mogadishu today, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs expressed solidarity with the people of Somalia while encouraging the leaders of the Transitional Federal Government to reach out to their opponents for the sake of peace and reconciliation in the war-torn Horn of Africa country.

"The international community is willing to help Somalia in all areas as long as there is progress on the ground," Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told reporters at Mogadishu airport.

His comments came at the end of a four-hour visit in which he met at a heavily-guarded presidential compound in Mogadishu with President Abdullai Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi, along with members of his cabinet, a UN spokesperson reported.

Mr. Pascoe held a separate meeting with Ali Mahdi, the Chairman of an independent committee charged with organizing an upcoming National Reconciliation Conference intended to forge social and political compromise between the country's various clans and factions.

"The National Reconciliation Conference is critical to the political development of this country," Mr. Pascoe said.

During his meetings, Mr. Pascoe expressed concern about recent politically motivated arrests and the forced closure of three radio stations which had criticized the Government.

He also raised concerns about the treatment of humanitarian workers, insisting their neutrality be respected and they be allowed to work without interference.

While emphasizing the need for political progress, Mr. Pascoe said security improvements are required in tandem, according to the UN spokesperson.

The Under-Secretary-General also praised the work of African Union forces deployed in February in an effort to help stabilize the Transitional Government, while urging that more troops, financing and logistical support be provided to the roughly 12,000-strong force, known by its acronym AMISOM.

The Under-Secretary-General is on a weeklong trip aimed at shoring up peace and stabilization efforts in Somalia. He attended a meeting of the International Contact Group for Somalia in London on Wednesday and travelled from there to Kenya, where he met with diplomats, humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN aid agencies before his visit today to Mogadishu.

On Saturday he is scheduled to travel to Nairobi and proceed to Asmara, Cairo, Addis Ababa and Brussels before returning to New York where he will brief the Secretary-General and the Security Council on his findings.