- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamist militants in control of most of southern Somalia warned yesterday that war will erupt over a U.N. decision authorizing an African force to protect the country’s virtually powerless government.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the resolution Wednesday, hoping to restore peace in Somalia and avert a broader conflict in the region. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi welcomed the decision and urged its immediate implementation.

The U.N. resolution, which the council’s African members co-sponsored, also partially lifts an arms embargo on Somalia so the regional force can be supplied with weapons and military equipment and train the government’s security forces.

In a possible indication that countries may be hesitant to contribute forces, Uganda — the only country thus far to volunteer troops — said it may hold off until the security situation improves. Deputy Defense Minister Ruth Nankabirwa said the situation had changed since Uganda first backed the peacekeeping proposal in January 2005.

The resolution also urged the Islamist militants, who control the capital, Mogadishu, to stop any further military expansion and join the transitional government in peace talks.

However, peace talks slated for later this month appeared unlikely, with the Islamist group saying it will now have to reconsider joining any such dialogue with the Somali government.

A spokesman for the Islamist movement said the resolution will introduce sophisticated weapons into Somalia and provoke a war between his group and the struggling government.

“We see the approval of the resolution as nothing but an evil intention,” said Abdirahin Ali Mudey, spokesman for the Islamic Courts. He accused the U.N. Security Council of giving the Somali government’s main ally, Ethiopia, permission to occupy the country.

The resolution, however, bans Somalia’s neighbors from sending soldiers, prohibiting participation in the force by troops from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya.

The arms embargo against Somalia was imposed in 1992, a year after warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another. An interim government was formed two years ago with the help of the United Nations, but it has struggled to assert its authority against the Islamist militants.

There are fears that, without international action, Somalia could become a proxy battleground for Ethiopia and Eritrea, which fought a border war from 1998 to 2000.

“International terrorists, opportunists are using some Somali people in order to destabilize our country and the region,” Mr. Ghedi said in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya. “So the decision by the Security Council must be immediately implemented.”

Ethiopia supported the resolution but said it should have occurred two years ago.

The United States has accused Islamic Courts movement, which takes its name from a system of local religious courts, of harboring al Qaeda suspects.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide