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US to Propose UN Resolution on Peacekeeping Force for Somalia


The United States expects this week to unveil a draft U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of African peacekeepers to strengthen Somalia's weak interim government. As VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington, at least one international research group says such a move could spark a wider conflict in the Horn of Africa.

A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, Ben Chang, told VOA the United States plans to submit the draft resolution on Somalia later this week.

He confirmed the resolution would authorize the deployment of a regional military force and exempt that entity from the existing U.N. arms embargo on Somalia.

As word began to circulate about the proposed resolution, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group released a statement saying the deployment of such a force in Somalia could backfire.

The group says an intervention force should be sent to Somalia only if all the warring factions in the country support the idea. It warned such a move could undermine Somalia's fragile transitional government, strengthen the rival Islamist group and lead to a wider regional war in the Horn of Africa.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, while not discussing details of the resolution, deflected the criticism.

"We have an interest in seeing greater stability in the Horn of Africa," said Sean McCormack. "We do have a strategy. We are working with other interested states as well as neighbors in the region. With due deference to their opinion, we believe we are pursuing the right strategy."

Somali Islamists seized the capital, Mogadishu, last June and have rapidly expanded their power throughout southern and central Somalia.

The interim government, which is recognized by the United Nations, controls only the town of Baidoa, in south-central Somalia.

The Islamists say they are trying to bring law and order to the country, which has been without a functioning government for more than 15 years.

The Islamists vehemently oppose foreign peacekeeping forces, saying they will wage a jihad, or holy war, against any foreign troops on Somali soil.

Neighboring Ethiopia and the United States both accuse the Islamists of having ties with the al-Qaida terrorist group.

The Bush administration believes the Islamists are harboring suspects wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Executive Director of the U.S.-based Somali Justice and Advocacy Center, Omar Jamal, says he believes his country needs a foreign peacekeeping force to end years of turmoil.

"Any existence of a stable government's business is to provide security for the citizens," said Omar Jamal. "I think by that it gives a chance for the government to build its army and police so they can provide a basic service that any government or any state is supposed to provide, which is to provide a secure environment for its citizens."

The proposed U.N. resolution for deployment of a regional military force in Somalia has the support of African members of the Security Council.

The draft resolution could be submitted as early as Wednesday.

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