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Indonesia offers to spearhead Peacekeeping in Somalia

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Indonesia has offered to spearhead U.N. peacekeeping in fellow Muslim country Somalia, but a mission is too risky for now as the Somali government battles Islamist rebels, a U.N. official said on Wednesday. 

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Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, and United Nations officials have long insisted a Muslim country should be in charge of any U.N. force sent to the lawless, volatile state in the Horn of Africa.

Indonesia has informed the United Nations "that it would be ready to provide troops and to take on a lead role in a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Somalia," U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told the 15-nation Security Council, according to Reuters.

Two other heavily Muslim nations, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have also pledged military support for an eventual mission, while Uruguay has pledged military observers, he added. Le Roy said however a peacekeeping mission in Somalia would be "a high-risk operation" that would most likely fail unless security improves first.

The Security Council, long under pressure from African states to send a U.N. force to Somalia, has repeatedly delayed deciding and is due to consider the matter again by June 1. Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar voiced frustration. "We ask for your assistance as you have pledged to give us the resources, the support, and the partnership ... so that the turmoil in Somalia both on land and in the international waters can be addressed," he said. Le Roy recommended boosting aid for African Union peacekeepers in Somalia and gradually phasing in a direct U.N. presence as security conditions improve -- a tack diplomats say is in line with U.S. President Barack Obama's thinking.

Source: Ecoterra Intl, May 15, 2009

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