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AU Agrees In Principle To Send Peacekeepers To Somalia

The African Union has agreed in principle to send peacekeepers to Somalia to help bring law and order there.

African Union spokesman Adam Thiam told VOA the African Union supports the idea of sending a peacekeeping force to Somalia, but did not specify the force's size or mandate.

He says, "The communique I have in front of me, which is the draft communique, does not mention any number - just endorses the principle of the African Union deploying a mission, which mandate should be determined by the commission in the coming days."

Mr. Thiam said the peacekeeping force is part of a larger African Union program to reconstruct and develop the war-torn nation.

The reconstruction and development of Somalia is also on the European Union agenda. During the weekend, E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced in Ethiopia that a donor conference to raise funds for Somalia would be held October 28th in Sweden. He did not say how much assistance Somalia needs.

The African Union Peace and Security Council is to discuss Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed's request for at least 20-thousand troops to provide peace and security in his war-torn country. He made the request during a weekend meeting with A.U. Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare.

Mr. Thiam told VOA Mr. Yusuf was unlikely to get the number of peacekeepers he was asking for.

He says, "Normally, this is very unusual numbers for the African Union. You know, in Darfur, right now we have 300 troops. I guess that it will probably be a kind of compromise."

Mr. Thiam said Mr. Yusuf asked for the peacekeepers primarily to protect the members of his new government.

Two years of peace talks in Kenya culminated recently with the selection of a 275-member assembly. It elected Mr. Yusuf, who was sworn into office October 14. The new government, now meeting in Kenya's capital Nairobi, is expected to return to Somalia within the next month or so.

Mr. Thiam said Mr. Yusuf told the African Union the security situation in Somalia is very volatile, with more than two-million small arms in circulation.

Mr. Yusuf had said the A.U. peacekeepers were needed to help the government disarm militias and other fighters and to implement its national reconciliation program.

Somalia fell into anarchy after Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. Since then, groups based on clan and sub-clan affiliations have controlled different parts of the country through the strength of their militias, with no central government to provide law, order, and resources to the people.