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Arms Exports

UN Security Council eases Somali arms embargo

The UN Security Council has eased the arms embargo on Somalia, agreeing to a one year partial lift in a bid to help the new government combat Islamist forces. The embargo is the oldest international weapons blockade.

The 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed a resolution to allow light weapons to be sold to the Somali armed forces. The partial lift is meant to help Somalia's transitional government to strengthen its security forces to combat al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters.

The resolution allows for a one year suspension of the embargo when small arms will be allowed. However, the resolution leaves in place a ban on surface-to-air missiles, larger-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars, anti-tank guided weapons, mines, night vision weapon sights, and related ammunition.

Under the new resolution, the Somali government must give at least five days notice of weapons deliveries and purchases, which UN experts will monitor.

"The council has struck the right balance. It sends a positive signal to President Hassan Sheikh but it continues to give the council oversight of weapons flows into Somalia," said Britain's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, whose country drafted the resolution.

US ambassador Susan Rice called the resolution "a clear signal of support" to the Somali president. "We will continue to work to support the government of Somalia as they endeavor to turn the page on two decades of civil war," Rice said in a statement.

Ever since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in September, he has campaigned for an end to the embargo, with his efforts backed by the United States.

The embargo dates back to 1992, a year after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The resolution also gave a new one year mandate to the 17,000 strong African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM. The UNSC is expected to move toward making the force a formal UN peacekeeping mission as government control increases.

hc/rc (Reuters, AFP)