UN report wants troops to be armed

NEW YORK - In a belated response to the starvation threatening millions in Somalia, a still confidential report to the United Nations Security Council recommends the dispatch of 3,500 UN soldiers to help protect food aid from being looted by rival warlords, writes Leonard Doyle.

The report by the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, says it is too risky to send unarmed UN military observers to monitor ceasefires outside Mogadishu, but the Council is asked to send four additional 'security units' of UN soldiers, each with a strength of 750 men, to Bossasso in the South West as well as Berbera and Kismayu. Five hundred Pakistani soldiers are being airlifted to Mogadishu to protect food supplies.

'Civil war, the insecurity and starvation are causing massive displacements and refugee flows,' the report says, and points to 'a particularly serious situation' on the Kenyan border, where 280,000 destitute Somali refugees have fled, with 2,000 more arriving daily. The recommended UN response to this tragedy is 'an operation to deliver food and seeds from Kenya' aimed at stopping people crossing the border to look for food.

The report paints a picture of anarchy and lawlessness in which heavily armed gangs are overrunning distribution centres, looting food and medicines from docked ships and from airports. The crisis, which threatens 4.5 million of the country's 6.5 million population with starvation, is being further compounded by drought and the devastation of the civil war on agriculture and fisheries.

More than 75 per cent of the country's livestock has been lost and destitute farmers 'will constitute a new wave of starving people flocking to the towns', the UN report warns.