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Latest update : 2010-05-22

At an international conference in Istanbul on stabilising Somalia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to support the failed state's precarious transitional government.

AFP - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened an international conference on ending instability in Somalia on Saturday with an appeal for global support for its transitional federal government.

"The only way to restore stability is to support this government in its reconciliation effort and its fight against extremism," Ban told delegates from 55 nations and 12 international organisations in Istanbul.

"If the international community acts now, I think it can make the difference," he said.

"I think this conference offers the international community an opportunity to show the Somalian leadership that we are ready to walk with them in partnership."

The fragile transitional government was established in January 2009, but its authority -- challenged by Islamist insurgents -- only extends over a small part of the capital Mogadishu with the backing of African Union troops.

Its president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is attending the Istanbul conference, which is also to focus on international efforts to combat Somalia-based pirates that prey on commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

Others participating include the French and Spanish foreign ministers, Bernard Kouchner and Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Kouchner urged Ahmed to "expand the political base of consensus which will make Somalia tip to the side of peace."

This did not mean appointing to the government all those who demand a post, Kouchner added. "It would be a moral fault coupled with a political error.... There are barbarous acts which exclude legitimacy."

Ban and Kouchner met prior to the start of the conference, with the French foreign minister telling the UN chief that more development aid and security in Somalia would help curb piracy, a French official said.

To this end, Kouchner urged Ahmed's government to step up joint actions with Somalia's breakaway northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland, and promised French help to curb illegal fishing in Somali waters, which pirates often blame for their activities.

While appealing for international support, Ban also used his keynote speech in Istanbul to remind the transitional government of its obligations.

"The government must also start to deliver, uphold services to the Somali people, pay salaries to the security forces fighting on their behalf and continue efforts to build up security-sector institutions," he said.

The UN Security Council last month unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by Russia that urges all states to toughen legislation aimed at prosecuting and jailing pirates caught off Somalia.

Ahmed stressed that piracy was not just a matter of law and order, saying that ending it depended on bringing stability and better economic conditions to Somalia.

"The Somali people are living in poverty and to earn easy money some of them harm our peaceful image," he said. "It's not just a question of security and politics, it's a human problem."

Date created : 2010-05-22


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