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Need to expand UN presence in Somalia

Security Council notes need to expand UN presence in Somalia

Calling on United Nations Member States to support war-battered Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, the Security Council today said it would welcome an incrementally expanding role for the world body in the Horn of Africa country.

The Government has been trying to relocate from Nairobi, Kenya, to a home country still suffering from widespread insecurity.

"The Security Council welcomes the progress made in the Somali national reconciliation process, in particular the Transitional Federal Government's ongoing relocation efforts, expects further progress in this regard and stresses the need for the international community to provide strong political, financial and capacity-building support for these efforts," the Council President for March, Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg of Brazil, read from a consensus statement.

The Council recognized the African Union's (AU) readiness to play an important role in a future peace support mission, but such a mission "must be carefully considered and planned and would require the support of the Somali people," the statement said.

It urged all factions and militia leaders to cease hostilities and, together with the Transitional Federal Government, to start immediate negotiations towards a comprehensive and verifiable ceasefire agreement leading to final disarmament. The Council also welcomed the UN's offer to provide advice in this regard, Mr. Sardenberg said.

More resources were needed for reconstruction, especially for those efforts coordinated by UN agencies, he added.

Meanwhile, improving the humanitarian situation was essential to forging peace and reconciliation, and ensuring access to Somalis in need and guaranteeing the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers was an immediate priority and obligation of the Government, he said as the Council congratulated the UN Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) on its achievements.

UNPOS chief Winston Tubman told a news conference earlier Monday, before briefing the Council, that an expanded UN presence in the Horn of Africa country could help Somalis implement their agreements and coordinate regional and international backing for the peace process.

The UN also could chair a Coordination and Monitoring Committee, as well as play a leading political role in the peace building that is still needed, he said.

"The capital, Mogadishu, is particularly insecure. We cannot say that either peace or reconciliation has been achieved, or that the fighting inside Somalia has ceased. At the same time, a fledgling peace process has pointed to a way out of the morass. We have worked hard to support that process," Mr. Tubman said.

Calling attention "to a very dramatic moment taking place in Somalia today," he said the Government's leaders had visited Somalia, "testing the waters."

"They were warmly received by the Somali people while on a brief tour last week, conceived as part of a phased-in return," he said.

According to a recent report on the country by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Mr. Tubman said, the UN was willing to offer advice on organizing immediate negotiations for a comprehensive ceasefire, was calling for the strengthening of the arms embargo and was prepared to support the AU in planning a protection force.

On that last aspect of national security, he added, "Although some Somalis have expressed concerns and reservations, we hope their concerns can be addressed and their reservations overcome."

The prevailing insecurity was preventing the UN from implementing post-tsunami programmes in large areas of the country. "With better security, we can reach many more people in need," he said.

Mr. Tubman said the briefing was his last because he was resigning from the UN to become politically active in his own country, Liberia.

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