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U.S. Abstains as U.N. Votes to Extend Somalia Mission


UNITED NATIONS — The United States, insisting that "the time has come to bring this U.N. mission to a conclusion," took the unusual step of abstaining Friday when the Security Council extended the peacekeeping operation in Somalia for another month.

The American stand put the United States at odds with the 14 other members of the council, all of whom voted for the resolution that delays a decision on withdrawal.

Since the United States has a veto, it could have halted the mission immediately. But the Americans clearly did not want to defy the overwhelming majority and end the mission so suddenly.

"In the face of Somali intransigence, and unwillingness to reach political agreement, (the U.N.) cannot continue to maintain 15,000 troops in Somalia and spend over $2.5 million a day," U.S. Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright told the Security Council.

"The resolution . . . fails to come to grips with the realities of the situation in Somalia," she said. "It puts off any decision . . . for yet another month. . . . The gravity of the situation . . . does not countenance such delay."

But French Ambassador Jean-Bertrand Merimee, clearly reflecting the view of the overwhelming majority, said: "It would be a serious mistake for the Security Council to terminate the force prematurely. . . . The U.N. should continue to play a role in Somalia."

The U.S. stance meant that the country that led the world into a chaotic Somalia with more than 28,000 troops in December, 1992, was now trying to lead the world out of a chaotic Somalia as soon as possible. None of the peacekeepers now in Somalia are American.

The council, although it passed the resolution, did not give the mission any resounding accolade.

The resolution clearly lays the groundwork for a possible withdrawal if security continues to deteriorate and Somalia's antagonistic warlords fail to resolve their differences in a conference.

While extending the mission until Oct. 31, the resolution provides that the Security Council will use that time to "undertake a thorough examination" of the mission "with a view to deciding on its future."

In addition, the resolution asks Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to prepare contingency plans for withdrawal.

Many diplomats believe the 15,000 peacekeepers could be in danger if they depart without some kind of reinforced military escort.

Albright appeared to imply that U.S. forces might take part in this when she told the council: "My government stands ready to work with other members of the council to bring about" a safe withdrawal.

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