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UN Security Council to Sanction Obstructers of Somali Peace Process

The U.N. Security Council has authorized sanctions against any individual or group that obstructs the peace process in war-torn Somalia. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a British resolution calling for targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans against anyone blocking the political process, violating the arms embargo or obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid.

British Ambassador John Sawers said the resolution is an important weapon against spoilers in Somalia.

"The prime goal of this is to provide a framework to stem the flow of arms into Somalia, which is causing such mayhem there," he said.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another in a struggle for power.

One effect of the ensuing lawlessness is the growing danger from piracy off Somalia's nearly 4,000-kilometer-long coastline.

Efthimios Mitropoulos, the head of the International Maritime Organization, said Somali pirates are holding 14 ships and some 280 crew members hostage.

He urged the Security Council to renew the mandate allowing international naval vessels to pursue pirates into Somali territorial waters when it expires early next month - action Somalia's transitional federal government also supports.

"A coordinated and cohesive response, at the international and national levels, is, therefore, necessary for the safety and well being of seafarers, for the seamless delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia, for the protection of the maritime environment against casualties that may have a catastrophic impact and for the shipping industry to continue to serve the seaborne trade and the world economy efficiently and effectively," he said.

The United States announced that it is circulating a draft resolution that would enhance the current mandate from the Security Council for fighting piracy. It would allow states, in cooperation with Somalia's transitional federal government, to repress acts of piracy and establish jurisdiction for bringing pirates to justice.

But South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said all of Somalia's problems must be addressed before piracy will disappear.

"You cannot only resolve piracy without resolving the situation on the ground in Somalia," he said. "Yes, piracy is urgent; we see it on the news; it catches our attention. But we keep on arguing that the condition of the people of Somalia should do the same - should catch our attention. That is what feeds into this whole situation."

The African Union representative at the Security Council meeting urged that U.N. peacekeepers be sent to Somalia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed replacing the current force of about 3,500 African Union troops in Somalia with an international stabilization force, eventually sending a large U.N. peacekeeping contingent once there is a real peace to keep.