Ban advises against U.N. force for Somalia, for now.

Halkaan ka akhri

UNITED NATIONS April 22, 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon advised in a new report against sending a U.N. force to lawless Somalia anytime soon, calling it a high-risk move that would likely prompt attacks against the peacekeepers.

Instead, Ban recommended in his latest report for the Security Council, made available on Wednesday, a phased approach starting by building up support for African Union peacekeepers already in Somalia and for Somali security forces.

The Security Council, long under pressure from African states to send a U.N. force to the Horn of Africa country, has repeatedly delayed a decision. It is due to consider the matter again by June 1.

Ban, always skeptical of the plan, said that “deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation directly, at this stage, would be a high risk option.”

Given the divisions between Somali factions, “such an operation could trigger opposition from substantial elements of Somali society opposed to international military intervention,” the report said.

Opponents of the peace process in Somalia would probably portray the U.N. mission as a new enemy, resulting in attacks against peacekeepers and attempts to draw the force into the country’s conflict, Ban added.

While sending a U.N. force to Somalia should remain a U.N. goal, “realistically achieving” it would need a substantial improvement of security in Somalia, the U.N. chief said.

Somalia has been a byword for anarchy since a dictatorship was overthrown in 1991. Currently, large parts of south and central Somalia are under the control of hardline al Shabaab insurgents and allied Islamist fighters.

Ban, whose report came out ahead of a donors’ conference for Somalia that he will attend in Brussels on Thursday, said that for the present he would recommend an “incremental approach” to peacekeeping.

The first phase would be to support a 4,300-strong AU force (AMISOM) already in Somalia, consisting of Ugandans and Burundians, to try to increase it to its planned strength of 8,000, and to build up the fledgling security forces of Somalia’s interim government.

If security conditions allowed, a second phase could then follow, involving what he called a “light United Nations footprint” by sending U.N. officials to Mogadishu to give political support, assist AMISOM and ensure aid delivery.

Those aims are close to the strategy that the U.S. Obama administration is developing for Somalia. The former administration of George W. Bush had backed the African call for a U.N. force, in the face of opposition from European allies.

Bringing internal stability to Somalia is seen by Western policymakers as key to ending the rampant piracy off the country’s coastline.

Sourse Reuters

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