U.S. boosts ties with break-away Somalia regions
* U.S. targets Somaliland, Puntland for new outreach
* Says no plans for full diplomatic recognition
* Asian, Arab countries should contribute more - U.S.
By Andrew Quinn
NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - The United States is increasing ties with two semi-autonomous regions in Somalia, hoping to build stability for the embattled central government and African Union forces deployed in the virtually lawless nation, a top U.S. diplomat said on Friday.
Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said U.S. officials were developing ties with authorities in both Puntland and Somaliland, both of which declared themselves independent in the early 1990s when the Horn of Africa nation descended into civil war and anarchy.
Carson said the United States did not plan to recognize either government as an independent state. But he said increased U.S. cooperation, particularly on aid and development, could head off inroads by Islamist Al Shabaab insurgents, who stepped up their fight to topple Somalia's Western-backed central administration last month.
"Both of these parts of Somalia have been zones of relative political and civil stability and we think they in fact will be a bulwark of extremism and radicalism that might emerge from the south," Carson told a news briefing.
Carson said the United States would also reach out to groups in south central Somalia, including local governments and family clans, that are opposed to Al Shabaab but not aligned formally or directly with the government in Mogadishu. Continued...