UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. — The United Nations should begin taking over command of the relief mission in Somalia on May 1, the UN chief says, allowing most of the 16,000 United States troops to return home.
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali proposed to the Security Council March 3 that a 28,000-member UN contingent replace the US-led force. The UN force is to be led by Lt. Gen. Cevik Bir of Turkey.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Somalia was still too lawless to have the mission under UN command, but it was not clear whether Turkey would formally object to the transfer.
US officials have been anxious for a swift transfer of control to the UN.
In his report, Mr. Boutros-Ghali emphasized that the formal change in command would begin May 1, but the transition would be gradual. "It is difficult to determine when this transfer will be completed," he said. A US quick-reaction force would remain, along with some other Americans, he added.
The report is expected to be approved by the 15-member Council, but it was not known when the Council would discuss it.
Boutros-Ghali said the US-led force had largely achieved its immediate goal of ensuring that food and humanitarian aid reached the famine-stricken nation. But a secure environment had not yet been established, he noted.
The UN chief said the international community's most urgent task was to disarm the clans and place their heavy weapons under international control.
That goal is far from being established. Rival clans have battled each other in the southern Somali port of Kismayu this week, and last week saw anti-American rioting in the capital by supports of a warlord who accused the US-led coalition of partiality.