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UN boss visits Somalia for 1st time since 1993

09 December 2011, 17:14

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Ban Ki-moon made the first visit to Somalia by a U.N. Secretary General since 1993 on Friday and pledged to open a U.N. political office in the war-ravaged capital Mogadishu in January.

Ban said his visit was to show solidarity with the Somalia people and to pledge continued international support as the government and African Union troops fight Islamist rebels and politicians work towards elections next year.

The U.N. Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) has a few political officers on the ground in Mogadishu but high-level officials are based in Kenya's capital Nairobi due to security concerns.

Diplomats in Nairobi said that for the plan announced by Ban to have significance at least one of the two top officials -- Special Representative Augustine Mahiga and Deputy Special Representative Christian Manahl -- should move to Mogadishu.

Ban was accompanied by Mahiga and the U.N General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser. They met Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali.

"We are honoured today to visit Somalia and we are here to show the people of Somalia our solidarity and how the U.N. could help the people of Somalia to a better future," Ban told a news conference.

The U.N. is expanding available accommodation space in Mogadishu ahead of the plan to beef up its office. Mogadishu is still plagued by regular suicide attacks and fighting even though most rebels pulled out in August.

Ban urged all Somalis to support a political roadmap agreed earlier this year that is meant to lead to parliamentary and presidential elections next year and end a string of fragile transition governments.

He condemned the closure of some aid agency offices by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels last month.

The last U.N. Secretary General to visit Somalia was Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993.



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