Clinton abandons hunt for elusive Somali warlord

Click to follow
THE UNITED STATES is giving up its effort to capture the Somali warlord General Mohamed Farah Aideed, and will give priority to reaching a political settlement.

President Bill Clinton denied yesterday that the US had proposed a ceasefire, but senior officials said they welcomed General Aideed's offer, made over Mogadishu radio, to stop attacking American or UN forces if they stopped attacking him.

The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said: 'The right policy is to reach a political solution. We did not go there to kill people.'

Asked about abandoning the pursuit of General Aideed, Mr Christopher said he would not rule anything in or out. But the administration is eager to avoid further American casualties up to 31 March, when the US is to withdraw from Somalia. It therefore plans to ignore the UN's instruction to arrest General Aideed for killing 24 Pakistani UN troops in June.

President Clinton has given his special envoy, Robert Oakley, authority to by-pass the UN in talks with other African leaders. He met the Ethiopian President, Meles Zenawi, in Addis Ababa at the weekend to discuss a political solution.

Although US officials accept they underestimated General Aideed and his militiamen, they do not rule out military action to rescue Michael Durant, the US pilot captured a week ago. American aircraft opened fire on areas outside Mogadishu late last night. But Mr Clinton says the US will take a defensive posture: 'Our job is not to decide who gets to play a role in post-war Somalia.'

Although the US is blaming the UN for conducting a vendetta against General Aideed, the change in strategy is also a rejection of the policy of Admiral Jonathan Howe, the UN special envoy in Somalia, in charge of all UN operations. UN diplomats say that, since Admiral Howe was very much a US appointment, it is unfair to accuse the UN of dragging the US into a guerrilla war.

OSLO - Most of the 133 Norwegian soldiers serving with the UN in Somalia, mainly part-time volunteers, resigned yesterday, saying their pay was too low for an increasingly dangerous job, Reuter reports.