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UN Committee Urges Respect for Somali Arms Embargo - 2003-11-18

A U.N. committee overseeing the arms embargo imposed on Somalia 11 years ago, says the embargo must be respected if the country's peace process is to be successful.

The chairman of the Panel of Experts on Somalia, Ambassador Stefan Tafrov, told reporters in Nairobi that ending Somalia's long-running civil war would be difficult to achieve if weapons and ammunition continue to enter the country.

Despite the U.N. arms embargo declared on Somalia in 1992, Mr. Tafrov said weapons are still entering the country and are being traded in Somalia and elsewhere. "The failure to enforce the arms embargo threatens to undermine the attempts to find a political solution leading to the creation of an effective government and administration in Somalia," he said.

Mr. Tafrov said the Somali peace process taking place in Nairobi is being threatened by heavily armed warlords. "This mission has been doing everything possible to diminish warlords' capacities to wage the civil war, devastating the country for more than a decade," he said.

Earlier this month, the U.N. panel released a report graphically illustrating the relatively unhampered movement of arms throughout eastern Africa.

The report said the suicide bombing of the Paradise Hotel on Kenya's east coast last year was carried out by terrorists with missiles brought from Yemen into Kenya through Somalia.

It said terrorists in Somalia have little difficulty in arming themselves with guns, air defense systems, light anti-tank weapons and explosives.

According to the report, most of the country's weapons come from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. They enter Somalia through ports that serve Puntland, Mogadishu, and Kismayo, and are often hidden in small fishing boats or cargo holds of airplanes.

Warlords can rely on a chain of arms brokers. They pay with cash raised from foreign sponsors, charges levied at ports and airports, profits from the sale of illegal drugs or counterfeit Somali shillings.

The U.N. panel gave no precise estimates, but said hundreds of tons of weapons have been smuggled into Somalia during the past six months.