(photo credit: AP)
The UN Security Council called an emergency meeting Tuesday on the fighting in Somalia between Ethiopian forces backing the country's weak transitional government and the powerful Islamic militia that controls most of the country.
Francois Lonseny Fall, the UN secretary-general's special representative to Somalia, was expected to brief the council on the latest developments in the country, which has not had an effective government since 1991.
Forces supporting the Council of Islamic Courts have been under heavy fire since Sunday, when Ethiopia sent fighter jets across the border to help Somalia's internationally backed government push out the Islamic militia. Ethiopia bombed the country's two main airports and helped government forces capture several villages.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Tuesday that Islamic fighters were making a tactical retreat after suffering heavy casualties as government and Ethiopian troops advanced.
On Dec. 6, the Security Council authorized an African force to protect Somalia's government against the increasingly powerful Islamic militia, but that force has not been deployed.
The council's resolution, sponsored by the United States and co-sponsored by the council's African members, also partially lifted an arms embargo on Somalia so the regional force could be supplied with weapons and military equipment and train the government's security forces.
At the same time, it threatened targeted sanctions against others violating the arms embargo.
The resolution also urged the Islamic movement that had taken control of the capital and most of southern Somalia in recent months to stop any further military expansion and join the government in peace talks.
It threatened Security Council action against those who block peace efforts or attempt to overthrow the government. No measures were mentioned, but they could include sanctions.