Uganda offers peacekeepers for Somalia

Says it has troops but not money

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ENTEBBE, Uganda | Uganda is willing to provide as many as 20,000 troops to restore order in Somalia if enough money is provided for the mission, Uganda’s president told visiting members of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

President Yoweri Museveni suggested that 12,000 to 20,000 troops could be provided for a U.N.- or African Union-led mission in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation. He said Uganda had the manpower, experience and training but lacked the funding.

“The number is not a big deal; we can provide any number,” Mr. Museveni said at a news conference in the statehouse on Wednesday. “What’s the alternative? … Somalia should not be taken over by terrorists. That’s the bottom line.”

The comments followed a more than hourlong meeting between Mr. Museveni and the Security Council, at which Somalia was a major topic of discussion.

Uganda’s support of the AU-led mission in Somalia has drawn fierce criticism from an al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group. Al-Shabab cited Uganda’s participation in the AU mission in claiming responsibility for July terror attacks in Uganda’s capital that killed 76 people.

Earlier in the day, council members visited a major air base for U.N. peacekeeping missions, where a senior official told reporters that budget cuts have forced the elimination of essential aircraft and hampered operations in Congo and Sudan.

Paul Buades, the new director of support services for the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in Congo, told journalists that six more planes among the U.N.’s 68 aircraft may have to be mothballed as well following $73 million in budget cuts.

“It reduces the capability of the forces,” Mr. Buades said in answer to a question about how fewer U.N. planes would affect peacekeeping efforts. “I feel sorry, as a manager responsible for the support, that I cannot deliver up to the ambition” of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative in Congo.

Mr. Buades said India has pulled back eight helicopters and the U.N. has been left with no attack helicopters and only nonmilitary commercial helicopters.

The U.N. Security Council — including the top envoys from permanent council members U.S., Russia, China and Britain — toured the Entebbe air base Wednesday and met with Mr. Museveni ahead of a visit this week to Sudan.

The chief aim of the trip to Sudan is to prevent any obstruction of a referendum in early January that could split Africa’s largest nation in two and to see what can be done about a recent escalation in violence in the country’s western Darfur region.

Southern Sudan, a semiautonomous region, is scheduled to vote on whether to secede from the north. The oil-rich region of Abyei is due to hold a separate vote the same day, deciding whether to be part of the north or the south.

Vote preparations are behind schedule, and Security Council diplomats say the votes must proceed on time to avoid reigniting the catastrophic civil war that raged for decades and ended in 2005.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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