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UN Security Council Backs Regional Peacekeeping Force For Somalia


The U.N. Security Council has authorized the creation of a regional peacekeeping mission for Somalia. VOA's Peter Heinlein at our U.N. office reports the Council vote was unanimous.

The U.S. drafted resolution adopted by the 15-member Council authorizes a "protection and training mission in Somalia" for six months. The mission will be operated by a seven-nation regional group known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD.

The resolution also eases a 14-year arms embargo against Somalia to allow the peacekeepers to train and assist government forces.

Some non-governmental organizations have criticized the resolution. They say it takes sides in support of Somalia's interim administration in its battle with powerful Islamic militants.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, however, argued that something must be done urgently to prevent the conflict in Somalia from spilling over into the entire Horn of Africa region. "The whole point of the deployment of the IGAD peacekeeping force is as a preventive measure so the situation does not deteriorate further. If we don't take any steps at all, that's the far more likely outcome. It may not be a complete solution to the problem, and that's why we've encouraged the mediation of various parties and to have all the Somalia factions talk with one another. I think that's basic," he said.

The resolution adopted Wednesday endorses the IGAD position that countries bordering Somalia should be excluded from the force.

A U.N. report obtained by VOA last month accused 10 countries and militant groups of fueling a military buildup in the Horn of Africa. It said more than six-thousand troops from neighboring Ethiopia were either in Somalia or along the border supporting the transitional government, while a two-thousand strong force from another neighbor, Eritrea, was backing the Islamists.

Eritrea denied the charge, while Ethiopia said its force consisted of only a few hundred advisers. The rival Horn of Africa nations fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that killed an estimated 70-thousand people.