UN 'twice told Italians not to arrest Aideed': Patricia Clough in Rome reports on the local view of the Somalia dispute

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The Independent Online
THE ITALIAN contingent in Mogadishu twice told the United Nations last month that it had a serious chance to capture the Somali warlord, General Mohamed Farah Aideed, and was twice told to hold off, the Defence Minister, Fabio Fabbri, told the Independent yesterday. 'Then came the (US) military operation designed to strike at Aideed, who our contingent had offered to seize,' he said bitterly in a brief interview.

The episodes illustrated in the minister's eyes the issues in the clash over the UN's peace-keeping mission in Somalia: the Italian emphasis on persuasion and the minimum of bloodshed, the US use of force and the hesitancy of the UN command.

On 1 July the Italian contingent said there was a 'serious chance' that it could capture Gen Aideed and asked authorisation from the Unosom command to move in. 'They were told not to go ahead for the moment, it was better to wait - to desist.'

The Italians made the same proposal again on 15 June, when he personally was in Mogadishu. When all the preparations had been made, UN officials again refused pemission 'because they did not have an order for his arrest from the United Nations'. The prospects for Gen Aideed's capture, he said, were 'a probability, though not a certainty'.

Asked whether they could still get Gen Aideed, Mr Fabbri vanished smiling into a joint session of the Chamber and Senate foreign and defence committees, which was debating his report on the dispute.

Earlier, in written answers to questions, Mr Fabbri said Italy was perfectly aware 'that peace-keeping can in certain situations turn into peace- making. But at all times the use of force must be limited and controlled and in strict proportion to its ends . . .

'We think that a permanent state of urban guerrilla warfare with repeated deaths is incompatible with the humanitarian and pacificatory aims of the UN missions.'

The whole role and the prestige of the UN were at stake, he went on. 'This is why we are worried, because the UN . . . is indispensable for the future of international co-existence.'

Mr Fabbri recalled that there had been 'diffidence in some international circles' to Italy's participation in the peace-keeping operations in Somalia - possibly meaning the US military, who reportedly feared that the population, remembering the period of Italian colonial rule in the first half of this century, might be hostile.

'We have demonstrated on the spot that we are able to maintain a dialogue with the population with whom we have established friendly and peaceful relations. I experienced this personally when I went to Mogadishu. Our past and the fact that many people there speak Italian and have studied in our schools, has enabled us, I think, to understand the Somali situation better than others.'

He noted that 'thousands and thousands of people since the beginning of the operation Restore Hope have been saved from death by starvation. It has also been demonstrated that dialogue and the search for a political solution . . . are possible.'

More harm than good? pages 20-21

Leading article, page 19

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