UN should enfore Somalia block

2009-05-20 20:36

Addis Ababa - An east African body on Wednesday urged the UN to slap an aerial and maritime blockade on Somalia, warning that an Islamist-led offensive to oust the regime poses a regional security risk.

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which met in the Ethiopian capital for emergency talks on Somalia's crisis said the rebels were capitalising on the lawless country's porous borders to ship in arms and foreign fighters.

It called on the UN Security Council to "impose a no-fly zone, except for humanitarian purposes authorised by the government" and "on sea ports particularly Kismayo and Merka to prevent the further influx of arms and foreign fighters".

Ransom-hunting pirates

IGAD suggested the embargo be enforced by international naval forces currently patrolling the waters off the Somali coast, an area infested by ransom-hunting pirates.

The grouping also called on the world body to impose sanctions on Eritrea "without further delays" for backing the radical Islamists in their campaign to unseat the Somali transitional government.

African Union commission chief Jean Ping, who also attended the meeting, renewed calls for a UN-sponsored peacekeeping force in the Horn of Africa state that has not known peace since 1991.

The situation is "deteriorating... due to an unprecedented level of violence in Mogadishu," said Ping.

'Threat to international peace and security'

"I wish to once again call on the UN Security Council to authorise the deployment of a fully-fledged peacekeeping mission in Somalia and respond to the threat to the international peace and security."

A UN Security Council delegation over the weekend said conditions have not yet been met for deploying UN peacekeepers in Somalia.

Somali extremist rebels early this month launched an onslaught which has so far left more than 100 people dead and displaced some 45 000 others in less than two weeks.

The latest round of fighting against pro-government militants has been some of the fiercest in months.

"It is no longer a war between Somalis, but a war against Somalia, a war against all of us," IGAD secretary general Mahboub Maalim, said during the talks.

Ethiopia denies crossing into Somalia

On Tuesday residents said they saw Ethiopian troops in armoured vehicles patrolling a Somali border town.

But Ethiopia has denied crossing back into Somalia, where it previously shored up government troops for slightly over two years since late 2006.

Ethiopia's foreign minister, Seyoum Mesfin, who is chairing the talks, warned against delayed intervention to help the embattled interim government.

"It is always more difficult to reverse a dangerous process when it is too late," said Seyoum.

"Extremists are not interested in peace. Their agenda has nothing to do with the stabilisation of Somalia. Their plans are going beyond Somalia," he said.