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AU, UN to assess deployment of peacekeeping force
Mogadishu, 6 September 2007 - The African Union and United Nations said they would send teams to Somalia to assess the possibility of deploying a peacekeeping force in the country, where Islamic militia have imposed Sharia law and warned of bloodshed if Ethiopian troops move in.
AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit made the announcement after a meeting with United Nations and European Union officials, a day before Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was due to hold talks with his ally, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
The seven-nation east African grouping, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, is planning to despatch a peacekeeping force to Somalia.
But it has run into problems ranging from an existing UN arms embargo on Somalia to opposition from the Islamic Courts militia, which has taken control of the capital, Mogadishu, and several other key areas.
"We have agreed to send an assessment mission that will assess all that is required for the peace-supporting mission and check the situation on the ground," Djinnit said. "But meanwhile the planning (for the peacekeeping force) should start," he added.
Asked when the path finding mission should go to Somalia, he replied "as soon as possible". The AU’s envoy to Somalia, Mohamed Ali Foum, said the team could go as early as next week.
Priority should be given to dialogue with the transitional government - which is largely powerless but has backed the peacekeeping force — "and all the parties in Somalia", Djinnit said. "Meanwhile, planning of Igasom (the peacekeeping force) should proceed," Djinnit said.
He said the current situation; following the Islamic Courts militia’s defeat of a US-backed alliance of warlords in southern Somalia after four months of clashes was "a window of opportunity to reactivate the dialogue and the peace process in Somalia".
In New York, the UN envoy for Somalia called for urgent Security Council action to prevent Ethiopian military intervention in lawless Somalia.
The UN’s special representative for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, said the world body would this week send a security team to Jowhar, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Mogadishu, to assess security. The visit would pave the way for another UN team that will discuss the humanitarian needs of the Somali population with the Islamist leaders. The clashes have claimed at least 360 lives and wounded more than 2 000.
The European Commission’s representative in Ethiopia, Tim Clarke, said, "We have reached a consensus to send an assessment team to Somalia very soon led by the AU and IGAD," which groups Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Somalia’s interim government. "The very important element now is to have dialogue as urgently as possible to find a way out of this situation," he said.