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UN Chief Says Time Not Ripe for Somalia Peacekeeping Operation

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that he disagrees with the United States that it is time to send U.N. peacekeepers to Somalia.

He said he has been trying over the past four months to respond to a Security Council request to establish a multi-national stabilization force for Somalia.

Mr. Ban said he has spoken to 50 countries, but the responses have "either been lukewarm or negative." He said no country has volunteered to lead such a mission and only one or two have expressed a willingness to contribute troops. Among Security Council members, he said just one country has stepped forward to offer funding and equipment - but not peacekeepers.

"Therefore, my efforts to establish international stabilization forces may not be materialized at this time. But I know that there are some member states of the Security Council, including the United States, who favor to establish United Nations peacekeeping operations there," he said. "I believe, and all my senior advisors and staff in DPKO [the Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and concerned departments, their assessment is the situation is not ripe, the conditions are not favorable to consider a U.N. peacekeeping operation."

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Security Council session about Somalia that while the conditions were not necessarily positive for sending a peacekeeping mission, they would become even less so if chaos reigned. She said preventing such a situation is the real issue and said the United States would press the council to authorize such a force by the end of this year.

But Secretary-General Ban told reporters during his end of year news conference that such an option is not feasible right now and he has proposed other more viable options for the council to consider.

"Before we can think about establishing a peacekeeping operation there, we need to first of all, strengthen this capacity of the African Union - AMISOM - through providing fundings and equipment and training. Another option could be we train those Somalis, themselves, through again providing necessary resources and training," he said. "We also should consider a Maritime Taskforce with the eventual possibility of establishing U.N. peacekeeping operations. That is what I believe is the right course of action," he said.

The AMISOM force Mr. Ban referred to is comprised of about 2,600 troops from Uganda and Burundi. Ethiopia, which sent troops separately to neighboring Somalia in 2006 to help stop an Islamic insurgency, has said it will withdraw them by the end of this year, leaving the small and under-equipped AU force as the sole mission in the insurgency-plagued country.