Conference To Consider New Ideas For Somalia
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It's time to buckle down and help bring stability to Somalia. That's the message Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought today to a conference in London. The host, British Prime Minister David Cameron, says Somalia's problems - piracy and terrorism - affect everyone. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on what the countries gathered in London hope to do about it.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: International diplomats are grappling with a long unanswered question: How can outside countries help a failed state succeed? As British Prime Minister David Cameron told the conference, everyone has a stake in this.
PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: Because 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 interest to support the Somali people in taking back their country.
KELEMEN: There are some hopeful signs, he says. An African Union peacekeeping force that once controlled just a few blocks of Mogadishu is expanding its reach and helping to squeeze the militant Islamist group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaida. Cameron says African peacekeepers should now get the resources they need to put al-Shabab permanently in retrieve. The prime minister of Somalia's transitional government, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, says he would welcome targeted airstrikes against terror suspects.
PRIME MINISTER ABDIWELI MOHAMMED ALI: And reason being al-Qaida in Somalia is not a Somali problem. It is a global problem and it has to be addressed globally.
KELEMEN: The Somali official also says the international community has to address what he calls the two piracy problems of Somalia.
ALI: One is the hijacking of ships off the coast of Somalia. But also, there's another piracy which is the illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing off the coast of Somalia, and also the toxic waste standing off the coast of Somalia.
KELEMEN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came away from today's conference sounding hopeful that Somalia is moving in the right direction and insisting that transitional leaders keep their timetable for elections and a constitution. But now she has another urgent issue on her plate: Clinton is to attend a conference in Tunisia tomorrow meant to put more pressure on Syrian President Bashir al-Assad's regime to end the bloodshed in that country. She says Assad is increasingly isolated despite the diplomatic cover he's gotten from Russia and China.
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: There will be increasingly capable opposition forces. They will, from somewhere, somehow, find the means to defend themselves as well as begin our offensive measures. And the pressure will build on countries like Russia and China because world opinion is not going to stand idly by.
KELEMEN: With grim reports coming out of Syrian cities like Homs, U.S. officials are struggling to find ways to get humanitarian aid to those in need. A U.S. official says the meeting in Tunis will make clear to Assad that the burden is on him to allow aid to reach his people. There doesn't seem to be an easy way to force Assad to heed those calls. Clinton would only say there will be a breaking point. She just doesn't know when.
CLINTON: If I were a betting person for the medium term and certainly the long term, I would be betting against Assad.
KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, London.
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