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US Asks UN Backing For Somalia Peace Mission


The United States is asking the U.N. Security Council to prop up Somalia's weak transitional government. VOA's Peter Heinlein has details from U.N. headquarters in New York.

U.S. diplomats distributed a draft Security Council resolution Friday that would authorize a regional force to support Somalia's transitional federal institutions based in Baidoa, 250 kilometes northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. The measure would allow a partial lifting of a 1992 arms embargo that is has largely failed to keep weapons out of the Horn of Africa nation.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton says the resolution envisions an eight-thousand strong peacekeeping mission staffed by the seven-nation African regional group. He says mission is designed to provide stability to the transitional government in the face of strong pressure from Islamists who control Mogadishu.

"The transitional federal government is under pressure from Islamic Courts Union and the stability, such as it is, is in grave peril and what we want to do is introduce this regional peacekeeping force, endorse insertion of regional peacekeeping force which many of the African states have called for in order to provide a measure of stability there," he said.

Deployment of the force is fiercely opposed by the Islamic Courts Union, which captured Mogadishu last June, then took control of much of the south and central parts of Somalia. They have imposed Sharia law in the areas they control.

The draft introduced Friday calls on the Islamic Courts Union to halt further expansion and reject people with an extremist agenda or links to international terrorism.

The United States has said the Islamists are harboring Al Qaeda fighters who use the lawless region as a base of operations, spreading terror to other areas.

The African Union and regional groups have long been pushing for a Northeast African peacekeeping force to uphold the transitional government. But news of a possible resolution has raised concerns among some Europeans that it could further destabilize the region and lead to all-out war.

Earlier in the week, the Council adopted a resolution submitted by Qatar that calls on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to extend the life of a panel of independent experts who have the job of monitoring enforcement of the arms embargo.

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