Page last updated at 23:13 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 00:13 UK

UN head against new Somalia force

Ban Ki-moon (file image)
Mr Ban warned UN peacekeepers could worsen Somalia's conflict

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has warned against sending a UN peacekeeping force to Somalia.

He said a UN force should remain the UN's goal, but that deploying now could worsen the country's conflict.

Mr Ban said the goal would only be achieved after progress on political reconciliation and restoring peace after two decades of conflict.

He spoke ahead of a donor conference aiming to raise 200m euros ($260m) for peacekeeping and national security.

The EU has already said it will pledge at least 60m euros ($78m) towards Somalia's security at the meeting, which opens in Brussels later on Thursday.

The international donor conference is seeking to raise funds for the African Union peacekeeping effort and to create national security forces.

Those forces could include a 6,000-strong national security force and police force of 10,000 officers.

The insertion of international security forces in Somalia remains a divisive and politicised issue with the potential to exacerbate the conflict
Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary General

Correspondents say such forces might contain pirates off Somalia's coast.

Only about 4,300 peacekeepers from an intended 8,000-strong AU force are currently deployed in Mogadishu.

The EU hopes the announcement of its financial pledge will be a benchmark for other donors at a time when the situation could hardly be more critical, says the BBC's world affairs correspondent, Mike Wooldridge.

The EU, which is hosting the conference with the United Nations, considers Somalia now has its first credible government in many years, though in reality it currently controls little beyond a few areas of the capital, Mogadishu.

The US and AU have been pushing for a UN presence but finding troops to participate has been difficult because of the dangers in Somalia.

High-risk option

Ban Ki-Moon spoke against a background of a Security Council request last December for a UN peacekeeping mission to replace the existing AU force.

The Security Council asked Mr Ban to give his recommendations on such a force, based on his assessment of the situation in the country, and gave a 1 June deadline for a final decision.

"The deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation directly, at this stage, would be a high-risk option," said Mr Ban.

"The insertion of international security forces in Somalia remains a divisive and politicised issue with the potential to exacerbate the conflict.

African Union troops in Somalia (October 2008)
The AU currently has about 4,300 peacekeepers in Mogadishu

"The issue of deploying a United Nations peacekeeping operation remains contentious, with divided positions among the Somali political actors."

He called for the UN to continue strengthening the AU force in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and provide the government with political and security assistance.

In December, Mr Ban had said few countries were willing to send peacekeeping troops to Somalia, as there was no peace to keep.

The world's attention has largely focused recently on Somali piracy, especially since the high seas drama in which US Navy Seals killed three pirates and rescued Richard Phillips, the abducted US captain of a cargo ship.

One of the aid agencies operating in Somalia, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), has urged donors not to allow piracy to divert attention from the country's humanitarian crisis which, the agency said, was affecting hundreds of thousands of Somalis.

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