A general view of participants of the London Somalia Conference, held at Lancaster House, in London,  May 11, 2017.
A general view of participants of the London Somalia Conference, held at Lancaster House, in London, May 11, 2017.

Somalia needs genuine international support for its reconstruction and stabilization plans to prevent a slide back into anarchy, leaders said at the start of a one-day conference on Somalia in London.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for another $900 million for the drought-stricken country, reports the Associated Press.

"Somalia now hangs in the balance between peril and potential,'' Guterres said at the opening of the conference Thursday. "Here in London we can tip the scales from danger to safety.''

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, centre
FILE - Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, centre, walks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 2nd left, inside the UN compound in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 7, 2017.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said his country also needs a "robust economic program" to fully recover from a quarter-century of war and chaos.

“The insecurity situation cannot be changed without addressing its root causes, which is abject poverty and mass unemployment. Too many of our young generation are sitting idle, creating fertile ground for terrorists to recruit from,” said the president.

FILE - Hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighter
FILE - hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km south of Mogadishu, in Somalia.

For 10 years, troops with the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) have battled al-Shabab militants and pushed the al-Qaida-linked group out of Mogadishu and other Somali cities.

But the militants continue to attack AMISOM bases around the country and public places in Mogadishu, causing hundreds of deaths per year.

The Somali president predicted his government will defeat the militants within the next few years — but called for the total lifting of an arms embargo on Somalia so the army has the firepower to defeat al-Shabab.

“The longstanding arms embargo on Somalia severely restricts our ability to procure heavy weapons, despite the partial lifting of the embargo in 2013. Time has come for Somalia to be able to get access to qualitatively better weapons than terrorists," he said.

The London conference will focus on improving security, governance and the economy in Somalia. Talks on security will focus on rebuilding the Somali National Army and how to counter terrorism while protecting human rights.

The conference is co-chaired by the Somali president, Guterres and British Prime Minister Theresa May.