AU troops to stay on in troubled Somalia

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt - The African Union announced yesterday that it was extending the mandate of its force in Somalia for another six months but urged the UN to take over the peacekeeping mission.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt - The African Union announced yesterday that it was extending the mandate of its force in Somalia for another six months but urged the UN to take over the peacekeeping mission.

The bloc's 15-member Peace and Security Council underlined the new opportunities for peace in the country created by a June 9 agreement signed in Djibouti by the transitional government and the main opposition coalition.

The council called on the UN to find the replacement peacekeeping mission for the current Ethiopian-dominated force foreseen by the Djibouti agreement.

The council "decides to extend the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia for an additional period of six months, with effect from July 17 2008," a statement said.

But it "expresses hope that, with the agreement of June 9, the international community will provide increased support to bringing to a definite end the violence that has plagued Somalia for about two decades".

It called for the "early deployment, in accordance with ... the June 9 agreement, of a UN peacekeeping operation that would take over Amisom and support the long-term stabilisation and reconstruction of the country".

According to the agreement, Ethiopians would withdraw after the UN deployed peacekeepers within 120 days of an armistice taking effect, a key demand of the opposition.

The existing AU force remained under strength, with just 2600 of the 8000 troops pledged. - Sapa-AFP

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