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UN Says Saudis Should Lead in Stabilization of Somalia


The United Nations special envoy for Somalia, Ahmed Ould Abdallah, says Saudi Arabia should take the lead in efforts to stabilize Somalia. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau has the story.

After 17 years and no success, Ould-Abdallah says it is time for the international community and the United Nations to either take a new approach or, essentially, admit defeat and withdraw from Somalia.

The status quo, Ould-Abdallah says, may actually be adding to the suffering in Somalia, which UN officials call the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

But Ould-Abdallah says the United Nations should launch a diplomatic initiative to mobilize a consensus in the country. He also recommends an initiative to strengthen an under-funded African Union peacekeeping force.

The AU force is supposed to be comprised of 8,000 troops but so far only 1,600 Ugandan troops are on the ground. Ould-Abdallah says Saudi Arabia has the "moral authority" to oversee such initiatives, arranging technical and financial support, but not necessarily providing troops.

"As time is pressing, this new peace presence has become a must. For this, Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two Moslem holiest sites and a close neighbor with many Somali refugees, more than 350,000, should be invited to play a leading role. Due to its successful contribution to peace in previous conflicts, Saudi Arabia can help."

Ould-Abdallah says the conflict becomes more dangerous to regional stability every day as young people, who make up two-thirds of Somalia's population, have no possibility of any work other than joining the conflict.

Ould-Abdallah made his comments in a briefing to the Security Council. A number of members support the idea of a peacekeeping mission, but the United Nations is stretched thin with a force of up to 26,000 troops scheduled to deploy to Darfur in January.