UNITED NATIONS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council pledged on Wednesday to consider steps to tighten a widely ignored 1992 U.N. arms embargo on chaotic Somalia but offered no specifics.
A unanimous resolution expressed the 15-nation council's intention to "consider specific action" to improve the embargo after U.N. monitors reported that Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Uganda and Yemen were providing illicit military support either to Somalia's interim government or its Islamist rivals.
Several of the countries named by the U.N. monitoring group this month have denied any impropriety, and a council committee has said it plans to give all of them a chance to confront the monitors at a meeting this week.
At the same time, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Washington was not yet ready to unveil a separate resolution authorizing African peacekeepers to help prop up the shaky Somali transitional government.
"We're still in consultation on that," Bolton told reporters. "We're moving as rapidly as we can."
The U.S. draft resolution would approve deployment of a joint peacekeeping force put together by the African Union and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), as the two groups have requested.
The measure would also ease the arms embargo to enable the peacekeepers to legally bring in weapons.
SET OFF ALARMS
But it set off alarms earlier this week when the Brussels-based International Crisis Group warned the text could backfire by undermining the transitional government, strengthening rival Islamists and leading to wider war.
The group, relying on an early draft, said it feared the measure would legitimize the presence in Somalia of Ethiopian troops sent in by Addis Ababa to back the interim government.
Because the Islamists are backed by Eritrean troops, the group said it feared the intervention in Somalia could deteriorate into a proxy war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, whose relations remain extremely tense years after a bloody border war between them.
But Jendayi Frazier, the U.S. assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, said in Washington on Wednesday that IGAD had itself ruled out putting troops from neighboring countries in the intervention force.
"The country that has said that it would deploy forces at this time is Uganda, and we would look for other countries that would be willing to do so from throughout Africa, but we are not expecting that any of the immediate neighbors would be deploying," Frazier told reporters.
The Islamists have been steadily expanding their reach and influence in Somalia after seizing the capital of Mogadishu in June. The United States says they are harboring al Qaeda operatives who pose a threat in the region and elsewhere.
After initially backing a coalition of warlords against the Islamist forces, the draft resolution signaled that Washington was now throwing its support behind the interim government.
Source: Reuters, Nov 29, 2006http://www.hiiraan.com/news2/2006/nov/u ... bargo.aspx