The UN Security Council has rejected proposals on imposing sanctions and tighter arms embargo on Somalia despite escalating violence in the chaotic nation.
The recommendations came from one of the council's own committees, which said that warlords in Somalia often violated the current arms embargo and have become rich by selling fishing licenses and exporting charcoal.
The fighting has escalated steadily in the African country since Sunday, when the extremists, which have alleged ties to al-Qaida, and the warlords, linked to the US, took up strategic positions in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. At least 96 people have been killed in Mogadishu in the last four days.
Most victims have been civilians. Nearly 200 people have been wounded in the fighting, doctors said.
The UN secretary general's special representative for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, issued a statement appealing for "leaders on both sides to step back from the brink and reconsider the damage they are inflicting on the population."
"Whatever the allegiances, the intermittent conflict between heavily armed camps has resulted in indiscriminate loss of life and has created fear and chaos for those civilians trapped in the crossfire," he said. "The indiscriminate use of heavy machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery in and between urban areas is unacceptable."
Islamic Court Union chairman Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed had said his group would observe a cease-fire from late Tuesday, but it never took hold.
Abdulahi Shir'wa, a civil leader, said neutral groups were trying to meet with the two militias to negotiate another cease-fire, without success.
Nuur Daqle, one of the alliance's commanders, said he was ready to observe a cease-fire and had been told that the Islamic court militias were also ready to stop fighting, but that so far, he had seen no let up in the battle.
"We are ready to cease fire, but the so-called Islamic courts are unreliable, they are offering, but keep on shooting at us," he said.
A spokesman for the courts could not be immediately reached from comment.
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi also called on all sides to stop fighting from his government's headquarters in Baidoa, 150 miles west of Mogadishu. Although his government has UN backing, it has so far failed to assert itself outside of Baidoa.
Somalia has had no effective central government since 1991, when warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and turned on each other, carving this nation of an estimated 8 million people into a patchwork of anarchic, clan-based fiefdoms.
Islamic fundamentalists have portrayed themselves as an alternative capable of bringing order and peace, but they have not hesitated to use force and have allegedly linked up with al-Qaida terrorists.
The secular Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism militia and the Islamic Court Union militia have been squaring off for several weeks to stake out strategic positions in preparation for a larger battle for control of Mogadishu.
Rumors abound that the United States is backing the secular forces. President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed told The Associated Press last week that he believes Washington is supporting the secular alliance, which includes ministers in an interim Cabinet, as a way of fighting several top al-Qaida operatives that are being protected by radical clerics. Ahmed offered no evidence, and the US has said only that it had met with a wide variety of Somali leaders to try to fight international terrorists in the country.
(Xinhua News Agency Chinadaily.com via agencies, May 11, 2006 )