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Kenyan Mediator: Peacekeepers Required for Somalia - 2003-08-01

The Kenyan mediator in the ongoing Somali peace talks being held in Nairobi has appealed for international peacekeepers to ensure calm once Somalia's new government takes power.

Kenyan diplomat, Bethuel Kiplagat, told reporters in Nairobi Friday that, within the next week or so, delegates attending the year-long peace talks will start forming a new government for Somalia.

The process includes drawing up a constitution and selecting members of parliament, who, in turn, will elect the president.

Mr. Kiplagat would not say when the new government would take power. But he stressed that the formation of a new government is just the prelude to bringing peace to Somalia, which has been at war since former President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. The Kenyan mediator said the new government, once installed, will need a lot of help, especially from international peacekeepers.

"Our appeal, and really we say this is unanimous of all of us: We will definitely require a peacekeeping force for Somalia," he emphasized. "Our ministers are going to make an appeal officially internationally so that, when that government comes in place, there will be a force."

The U.N. secretary-general's representative for Somalia, Winston Tubman, said the United Nations is considering sending peacekeepers to Somalia.

"As soon as the all-inclusive government is formed, the United Nations wants to be in a position where we'll be able to address this issue because ultimately, the security question is the key," he explained. "If the guns are still there, we can sign any document we want; the people of Somalia will not have peace."

Somalia is currently being ruled by the Transitional National Government, or TNG, which was formed in Djibouti three years ago. TNG President Abdikassim Salat Hassan's term is set to expire in the middle of August.

Mr. Tubman pointed out that Somalia will be recognized by the United Nations no matter who represents it.

"Whether the government that will represent Somalia at the U.N. will be the present one or some future one, will be determined at the New York level," he said. "But as now and then, Somalia will continue to be a member of the United Nations."

The Somali peace talks, which began last year in Kenya, bring together among others, representatives from several African countries and more than 20 warlords.