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Envoy Says UN Role in Somalia Hinges on Political Talks


The U.N. Security Council Monday discussed a proposal for the United Nations to increase its role in Somalia. From VOA's New York bureau, Suzanne Presto reports the secretary-general's special envoy to Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, says U.N. peacekeepers could replace A.U. troops when the African Union's extended mandate, known as AMISOM, expires early next year

But, Fall says, Somalia must make some headway toward peace in reconciliation talks before the U.N. will consider assuming responsibility for the mission. "In six months, if we get enough political progress, and if we complete AMISOM, then the door is always open for the U.N. peacekeeping in Somalia. But we need to push in the political dialogue to have some political progress," he said.

Fall says the U.N.'s role in Somalia hinges on the outcome of political discussions set for later this week in Mogadishu. They are part of broader national reconciliation talks among representatives from Somalia's various clans.

Insurgent attacks have repeatedly delayed such talks. Fall traveled to the ravaged capital of Mogadishu last week, in an effort to energize reconciliation discussions. Mogadishu has been under the control of the secular interim government since troops ousted powerful Islamists there more than six months ago.

The special envoy acknowledged that A.U. officials expect U.N. peacekeepers to take over for A.U. peacekeepers, as requested by the A.U., when the mandate expires in February 2008.

The African Union has pledged 8,000 troops to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, but fewer than one-quarter of them have arrived. "We have now 1,700 troops, all from from Uganda. We're expecting soon 1,500 from Burundi, and that is because of a lack of financial and technical support that the deployment of Burundian troops was delayed. And we're expecting also some troops from Nigeria and Ghana," he said.

Fall says some nations do not want to send their troops to Somalia because there is no cease-fire in place.

A New York-based rights group on Monday highlighted the need for peacekeepers in Somalia. Human Rights Watch released a report saying all sides in the conflict are responsible for massive civilian deaths and suffering.

The A.U.'s desire to transfer authority comes as the United Nations struggles with an increased demand for peacekeepers.

The Security Council recently approved plans to create a hybrid U.N.-A.U. force in western Sudan's Darfur region. That will become the world's largest peacekeeping operation, with 26,000 military personnel and police officers.

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