BRUSSELS - U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Somalia's president urged international donors on Thursday to give the east African country more money to fight piracy and restore order after two decades of anarchy.
Ban and President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed made their pleas at a conference in Brussels intended to raise at least $250 million to help Somalia's government boost security and to support an African Union force in the Horn of Africa nation.
The seizure of ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean by Somali gangs has driven up insurance rates and other costs in sea lanes linking Europe to Asia, and Washington has long tried to ensure al Qaeda cannot operate in Somalia.
...Restoring security and stability in Somalia is vital to the success of the reconciliation effort and the survival of the unity government, Ban told the conference, held under the auspices of the United Nations. Much remains to be done.
Ban reiterated he had no intention of sending a U.N. force to Somalia any time soon, saying peacekeepers would go only when circumstances and conditions are appropriate.
Organizers of the meeting, chaired by Ban and the AU, say more than $250 million is needed for next year to improve security in a state which has had no central government since 1991 and is mired in conflict.
EU officials said the aim was to build up a police force of some 10,000 personnel and a security force of 5,000. Support is also sought for the 4,300-strong African Union mission AMISOM.
SUPPORT FOR AHMED
Many world leaders say Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel leader elected at U.N.-brokered talks in January, offers the best hope for years of restoring stability, though his administration is the 15th attempt in 18 years to set up a central government.
More than one million people have been uprooted by fighting in the past two years and one third of the population survives on food aid.
We are firmly determined to undertake reforms ... to try to alleviate the suffering of the Somali people. However, we can only achieve real progress if we manage to restore security to the country, Ahmed said.
He, Ban and EU leaders underlined the need to combat the gangs involved in piracy on land as well as at sea.
Piracy has worsened off Somalia's coast despite the presence of naval forces from more than a dozen countries, including task forces under NATO, EU and U.S. command.
NATO's four-ship mission was due to wind up its operation on Thursday. Diplomats were discussing whether it could be extended and NATO has said it wants tougher rules to allow the detention of captured suspects.
The United States, which is reviewing its Somalia policy, plans to help build Somali security forces and bolster the new government but has made clear it has no desire to drive the whole process.
Ahmed did not comment on reports that Islamist opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on the U.S. list of terrorism suspects for alleged links to al Qaeda, had returned to Somalia two years after being ousted.