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(Updates with communique starting in second paragraph, Cameron starting in sixth)
Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the interim Somali government will face sanctions if it doesn’t step down at the end of its mandate in August.
A communique issued at the end of an international conference on Somalia in London today said there “must be no further extensions” to the transitional government’s mandate and agreed steps to be taken against piracy and terrorism emanating from the war ravaged horn of Africa country.
“The Transitional Federal Government was always meant to be just that, transitional,” Clinton said during the meeting. “It is past time for that transition to occur, and for Somalia to have a stable government.” She said that “attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated.”
The U.S. will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on all those “who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security,” Clinton said. “If you are standing in the way, you should be held accountable.”
Clinton joined representatives of more than 40 countries and international organizations taking part in the conference, hosted by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, to discuss how to restore stability to Somalia. The meeting, attended by Somalia’s interim president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, focused on promoting security and political processes as well as combating terrorism and piracy.
“After two decades of bloodshed and some of the worst poverty on earth, there are the first signs of fragile progress in Somalia,” Cameron told reporters after the conference. “When pirates are disrupting vital trade routes and kidnapping tourists, and when radicalism is poisoning young minds and breeding terrorism, it is in all our interests to support the Somali people in taking back their country.”
Somalia has been wracked by civil war since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre, the former dictator, in 1991. Al-Shabaab, a militant group linked to al-Qaeda, controls most of southern and central Somalia and has been fighting the president’s administration in the capital, Mogadishu, in a bid to establish an Islamic state.
Somalia’s interim prime minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, called for “targeted” air strikes on al-Shabaab and action against the “piracy” of illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters.
“We welcome targeted air strikes against al-Qaeda in Somalia, it is not a Somali problem, it’s a global problem,” he said as he stood alongside Cameron at the press conference. “But we have got to avoid any death or injury to the people of Somalia.”
The United Nations Security Council yesterday authorized an increase in the African Union peacekeeping mission, which includes soldiers from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, to 17,731 troops from 12,000. Kenya deployed troops in southern Somalia in October in pursuit of al-Shabaab.
Cameron, who would not be drawn on the possibility of air strikes, said the emphasis is on the world community coming together to tackle the threat.
“There is a military campaign that’s taking place against al-Shabaab,” he said. “This is not about western troops getting involved in a campaign in any country, this is about the countries of the world and the institutions of the international community coming together to support the people of Somalia.”
The UN resolution includes an international ban on imports of charcoal from Somalia, a major source of funds for al- Shabaab, which sells it largely to Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
Clinton urged the international community to begin implementing the ban immediately. “We must keep the pressure on al-Shabaab so that its grip on Somalia continues to weaken,” she said, noting that the illicit charcoal trade also harms the environmental and threatens the country’s tenuous food security.
In support of those efforts, Clinton said the Obama administration would provide $64 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia and other Horn of Africa countries, bringing total U.S. emergency aid to the region since 2011 up to more than $934 million. More than $211 million of that is dedicated to programs in Somalia.
More than 3,500 Somalis are actives as pirates, the UN said Feb. 16, while a further 1,000 are in custody in 20 countries. Somali pirate attacks rose to a record 237 in 2011, with ransoms of $160 million paid to release 31 hijacked vessels, according to a One Earth Future Foundation report. Piracy cost the shipping industry and governments $6.9 billion last year, including $2.7 billion in extra fuel to speed up through the seas off Somalia and $1.3 billion on military operations, according to the foundation.
There will be a follow-up conference in Istanbul in June.
--With assistance from Michelle Wiese Bockmann, Robert Hutton and Gonzalo Vina in London. Editors: Eddie Buckle, Andrew Atkinson
To contact the reporters on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Thomas Penny in London at email@example.com
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