Clinton gives deadline for leaving Somalia

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PRESIDENT Bill Clinton said last night he was sending 1,700 more US troops to Somalia because 'we need more strength, more armour, more air power' to protect troops already there. But he added all US soldiers would be withdrawn by 31 March next year.

In the course of his nationally televised address, Mr Clinton was at pains to emphasise that the US reinforcements, including 3,600 Marines to be stationed offshore, would play a defensive role.

At the same time Mr Clinton is sending Robert Oakley, the former US special envoy to Somalia, back to the area to try to end the fighting. When the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was told about Mr Oakley he objected so strongly that he had to be calmed by aides, according to sources at UN headquarters in New York.

In what was described as an extremely tough meeting with the US ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, Mr Boutros-Ghali complained that the US was trying to muscle in on a UN show, and could only send an envoy if the Security Council passed a new resolution. Ms Albright said that the US did not consider such a move was needed.

Emphasising that the US had first intervened militarily in Somalia in December to save victims of famine, Mr Clinton said the US could not leave tomorrow or there would be a return to chaos and starvation.

Earlier President Clinton was apparently taken back by the strength of opposition to further involvement in Somalia from congressional leaders, whom he met for two hours yesterday. Senator Mitch McConnell said the meeting was 'very divided', adding that, if it voted today, Congress would reject the plan. 'We ought to be measuring this period in weeks or a couple of months,' said Senator Sam Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A further row over responsibility for losses in Somalia is developing with confirmation that General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, twice asked for armoured vehicles to be sent to US forces but was turned down.

Briefcase admiral blamed, page 14

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