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UN Security Council Urges Planning for Somalia Peacekeeping Force


The United Nations Security Council says there should be contingency planning for the possible deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Somalia, despite the U.N. secretary general's warning that such a force would not be viable. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau.

The U.N. Security Council expressed "strong concern" about the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in Somalia, where thousands of people have been killed in violence that erupted in January when Islamist-led insurgents began fighting the interim government and allied Ethiopian troops.

Since March, some 1,600 Ugandan peacekeepers have been operating as the vanguard of an African Union force in Mogadishu, the capital.

On Friday, insurgents attacked Ugandan soldiers, killing two people and injuring at least five others. The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Somalia was killed in the crossfire.

The violence has prompted renewed calls for a U.N. peacekeeping force in the nation.

But, in a quarterly report released this month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said a U.N. peacekeeping force in Somalia "cannot be considered a realistic and viable option" because the country is too dangerous.

The current president of the U.N. Security Council, Indonesian envoy Marty Natalegawa, told reporters Monday that the council believes contingency plans are needed nonetheless.

"Of course the sentiments and the thoughts that were expressed by the Secretary General have been duly noted, but the council members do feel that there is an urgent need to actively consider this matter."

In the past month alone, more than 100,000 people have fled Mogadishu and aid workers say the humanitarian situation is dire. Natalegawa said contingency planning should also include a UN. response to the humanitarian and political situation, as well as a possible peacekeeping force.

"I must emphasize that the council members were quite clear in wanting to reinforce that this is an issue that is receiving the council's attention and (that it is) recognizing the gravity of the situation," he said.

The African Union force in Somalia is slated to comprise 8,000 troops. But, African nations other than Uganda have yet to contribute troops.