U.N. Security Council extends Somalia peacekeeping force

Wed Nov 7, 2012 3:51pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council extended an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia for four months on Wednesday as it mulls lifting an arms embargo and Uganda threatens to pull out troops over claims it is aiding rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The African Union has appealed to the 15-member council to review its arms embargo to help Somalia rebuild its army and consolidate military gains against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab. U.N. diplomats said the council was split over this request.

The council extended the AMISOM peacekeeping mission for four months, instead of the usual 12, to allow for a review of operations, including consideration of the arms embargo request and a call to permit the export of stocks of charcoal.

The council imposed the embargo in 1992 to cut the flow of arms to feuding warlords, who a year later ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged Somalia into civil conflict. It banned the sale abroad of Somali charcoal in February this year in an attempt to cut off al Shabaab's funding.

A deadly car bomb exploded on Wednesday near the country's parliament building in the capital Mogadishu, police said. While it was not clear who was responsible, Mogadishu has frequently been targeted by al Shabaab.

"The situation in Somalia is changing rapidly. We have a more legitimate political leadership than ever before," British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the Security Council. "But, as today's deplorable attack on Parliament shows, the situation remains perilous."

He acknowledged the African Union request for the arms embargo to be lifted, but gave no indication of how Britain would respond.

Somalia wants help strengthening its poorly equipped and often ill-disciplined military that is more of a loosely affiliated umbrella group of rival militias than a cohesive fighting force loyal to a single president.   Continued...

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) policemen look on they travel to General Kaahiye Police Academy to hand out supplies to the Somali police in Mogadishu, in this October 14, 2012 handout photo taken and released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team. REUTERS/AU-UN IST Photo/Tobin Jones/Handout