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UN political affairs chief visits Somali capital, urges reconciliation

The international community is willing to help Somalia as long as there is "progress on the ground," the United Nations' political chief said during a four-hour trip to the Somali capital.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe also urged more troops for a peacekeeping force, and said the situation in Mogadishu "has been and remains grim."

"The international community is willing to help Somalia in all areas as long as there is progress on the ground," Pascoe said Friday at the end of his trip.

Somalia descended into chaos in 1991, when warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another. The government was formed in 2004 with the help of the United Nations, but it has struggled to assert any real control throughout the country.

The administration, with the crucial aid of neighboring Ethiopia, ousted Islamic radicals who had ruled Mogadishu and much of southern Somali for six months last year. But insurgents linked to the group have vowed to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war until the country becomes an Islamic state.

Somali and Ethiopian troops have come under frequent attacks.

On Friday, the European Union approved euro4 million (US$5.4 million) in emergency humanitarian aid to help some 350,000 displaced people in Somalia.

The funds will be used to provide shelter, food, water and medical supplies for people fleeing the recent fighting between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-led forces backing the transitional government.

A drought, floods and an outbreak of Rift Valley fever have increased the need for additional aid, officials said.

The funds come on top of euro21 million (US$28.3 million) already allocated to Somalia by the EU this year.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Olli Rehn urged those fighting in Somalia to commit to a cease-fire. He called it a precondition for the national reconciliation congress in Somalia - expected to start mid-June - to be effective.

"There is no military way out," Rehn said in a statement. "Only an inclusive political settlement can put an end to the cycle of violence which has devastated the country over the last 16 years."

The EU has provided a total of euro32.5 million ($43.7 million) in humanitarian aid to Somalia since 2004.

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