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AU head wants extension for Somalia peace force
ADDIS ABABA, 18 Jan 2008 - The African Union (AU) Commission's chairman recommended on Friday a six-month extension for a peacekeeping force in Somalia and criticised member states for failing to honour pledges for troops.
A 1,800-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been carrying out peacekeeping duties in Mogadishu, where Islamist insurgents have been fighting the interim government.
Near daily clashes in the capital killed 6,500 civilians last year.
"It is my earnest hope that the Peace and Security Council ... adopt my recommendation to extend the mandate of AMISOM for another period of six months," Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said in a report on Somalia.
Only troops from Uganda and Burundi are in Somalia. The AU planned a peacekeeping force of 8,000, but has had difficulty getting African nations to deploy soldiers.
"To date, the pledges made by member states to contribute troops for AMISOM represent only a little over half of the authorised strength, depriving AMISOM to live up to its responsibilities towards Somalia and its people," he said.
Burundi on Friday announced it was deploying a contingent of 220 to boost another 192 troops already in Mogadishu.
"More than 400 troops have been deployed now, we hope to complete a deployment of one battalion of 850 men by next week," said army spokesman Adolphe Manirakiza.
The central African nation had planned to send 600 troops two weeks ago, but this was delayed by a jet fuel shortage caused by a political crisis in Kenya.
Unrest in Kenya has killed over 620 people and choked fuel and basic commodity supplies to neighbouring countries.
Konare also accused the international community of failing to support the force financially and asked the United Nations to authorise its own force to replace AMISOM.
"In spite of numerous appeals made by the AU echoed by the U.N. Security Council in several resolutions, the financial and logistical support mobilised so far is far short of what is required to fully deploy the mission," he said.
Konare asked Somali's transitional government, led by President Abdullahi Yusuf, to adopt an inclusive approach that would appeal to Somalis that reject violence.
More than 600,000 people have fled their homes due to fighting that erupted when Yusuf's government, with the aid of Ethiopian troops, unseated an Islamist movement from Mogadishu.
(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse, additional reporting by Patrick Nduwimana in Bujumbura; editing by Elizabeth Piper)