By Ingrid Melander
BRUSSELS, March 4 2008 - The international community should stop "collectively punishing" Somalia for past errors by neglecting it, a senior United Nations envoy to the war-torn country said a day after a U.S. missile attack there.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the U.N. Secretary General's High Representative for Somalia, said Monday's missile strike by the United States highlighted the need to put the lawless Horn of Africa state back on top of the international agenda.
"This is not new, and the only comment I can make on it is that Somalia deserves attention," Ould-Abdallah said when asked about the two missiles fired at what Washington called "a known Al Qaeda terrorist".
"They (Somalis) have made a number of mistakes ... They destroyed their country ... They have not been cooperative with the United Nations in the 1990s, but these are not reasons for collective punishment which I think the international community is doing by ignoring their plight," Ould-Abdallah told Reuters in an interview.
In Brussels for talks with European Union ambassadors, he urged the 27-nation EU to do more than just send food aid, saying the priorities were to protect civilians and ensure there was no impunity for humanitarian crimes committed in Somalia. The U.N. Security Council has the primary responsibility to take up the divided country's future and work for a solution, he said, but the African Union, the Arab League and the EU also have some responsibility.
International organisations are not backing efforts by the Somali government to talk with the opposition, he said.
The toll from Monday's attack was not known. Hundreds of residents of Dobley, the remote town in southern Somalia hit by the missiles, staged an anti-U.S. demonstration on Tuesday. Residents said they thought the missiles were aimed at senior Islamist leaders meeting nearby.
The Islamists have been waging an insurgency against Somali government forces.
On Jan. 8, 2007, a U.S. AC-130 gunship struck Islamists in southern Somalia in Washington's first overt military action there since pulling out of a U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission in 1994 after the "Black Hawk Down" incident.
That attack, and a similar one shortly afterwards, struck Islamists fleeing Ethiopian and Somali troops who cornered them in southern Somalia during a two-week war to rout the militants.
On June 21, a U.S. Navy ship fired missiles at Islamist fighters and foreign jihadists hiding in the mountains in the northern Puntland region.
The United States accuses Somali Islamist insurgents of harbouring al Qaeda fugitives responsible for planning and executing the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)