US threatens sanctions on Somali peace spoilers
By Adrian Croft and Arshad Mohammed
LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday threatened sanctions on anyone blocking reforms intended to end Somalia's "hopeless, bloody conflict" and counter militant and pirate groups seen as a growing menace to world security.
Addressing a conference aimed at energising attempts to end more than 20 years of anarchy, Clinton also demanded greater efforts to cut funding for al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants fighting Somalia's weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Al Shabaab is the most powerful of an array of militias spawned by the conflict in Somalia, where armed groups have a history of wrecking attempted political settlements and perpetuating war, instability and famine.
"The position of the United States is straightforward: attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated," Clinton told the one-day gathering in London of about 40 African, Arab and Western leaders and government ministers.
"We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia's peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition."
A conference communique said participants agreed to "act against spoilers to the peace process, and we would consider proposals" before a followup conference in Istanbul in June.
In a statement, al Shabaab dismissed the London meeting as part of a "concerted Crusade against the Muslims of Somalia" and pledged to fight on to establish Islamic rule.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of Somalia's TFG said Somalis wanted to shake off "horrendous memories of the past" but feared the gathering might be just another diplomatic talking shop. Continued...