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New UN Head Urges Quick Peacekeeper Deployment To Somalia January 4, 2007

Posted by notapundit in World News.
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UNITED NATIONS (AP)–Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Somalia’s transitional government on Thursday to seek political reconciliation and called for the speedy deployment of African peacekeepers.

The new U.N. chief believes the rout of the Islamic movement over the past 10 days by Somali government troops and Ethiopian soldiers offers “a new opportunity” for the transitional government to establish full authority throughout the country for the first time, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

Ban welcomes Ethiopia’s statement that it intends to withdraw its forces “expeditiously” and calls on all countries in the region “to respect Somalia’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” she said.

On Dec. 6, the U.N. Security Council authorized an African force to protect the U.N.-backed transitional government against the Union of Islamic Courts, which had taken control of the capital and most of southern Somalia. The council also authorized the force to train Somali government troops.

Uganda and Sudan initially indicated willingness to provide the first two battalions for the African force. But in a letter to the Security Council on Dec. 28, just before he stepped down, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Sudan later opposed foreign intervention in Somalia while Uganda was reluctant to deploy its troops in Somalia “in the absence of a secure environment.”

With the rout of the Islamic militants, however, Uganda said it had a 1,000-troop battalion ready to deploy in a few days. Nigeria also has promised troops.

Somalia hasn’t had a functioning government since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on one another. The transitional government was formed two years ago with the help of the U.N., but it had struggled to assert its authority against the Islamic militants.

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