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UN Wary of Somalia's Request for Peacekeepers

Somalia's prime minister has urged the U.N. Security Council to dispatch a peacekeeping mission to his country. But as VOA's Peter Heinlein reports, the Council responded cautiously.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told the Security Council Thursday his country is at a 'critical crossroads'. Despite reports of escalating violence in Mogadishu, Mr. Gedi said a long-delayed national reconciliation conference should take place in July.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Gedi said the world body has a duty to send peacekeepers to foster the delicate process of bringing stability to a country that in the recent past has been ungovernable.

"The Somali people have all the rights as any other nation in the world to be supported," said Ali Mohamed Gedi. "The international community is behind us, but the era of wait and see is over. We need concrete actions on one hand for the political reconciliation process and on the other hand pacification and stabilization of Somalia in cooperation with the international community.

But Mr. Gedi admitted that what he called 'pockets of terrorists' still remain at large, and would continue to be a source of disruption and frustration.

Diplomats listened sympathetically to the Somali leader's plea, but as Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry explained, the Council expects more political progress before dispatching blue-helmeted peacekeeping troops.

"If peace is brought about, and if there is sufficient agreement, the United Kingdom will support a U.N. peacekeeping presence in Somalia, but it's got to be done by the Somalis themselves to create the conditions for that force," said Emyr Jones-Parry.

Jones-Parry said the Council would hold back on dispatching peacekeepers until there was evidence that the violence in Mogadishu is subsiding.

"We can only do so much, but you can't put peacekeeping troops there if there's no peace to keep," he said. "That's a reality."

Somalia's request comes at a time when the world body is struggling to meet an increasing demand for peacekeepers, especially in Africa. The Security Council is currently trying to take over an African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan and increase its size from 7,000 to more than 20,000.

An important signal will be a meeting of Somalia's national reconciliation conference. Mr. Gedi told the Council Thursday the gathering is set for mid-July, after being postponed three times.