Ban Ki-moon said troops should stay out for now for their own safety and to improve the chances of success of such a mission at a later time.

 
Jean-Maurice Ripert, the French ambassador to the UN, added that peacekeepers should not be deployed until it is clear that Somalis will support the operation.

 

'Prisoner of the past'

 

Talk of outside intervention is still coloured by memories of a battle in 1993 in which 18 US soldiers and hundreds of Somali militiamen died.

 

The incident inspired the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down and marked the beginning of the end for a US-UN peacekeeping force.

 

Ould-Abdallah said that "Somalia remains a prisoner of the past, never forgiven for the violent actions carried out against the international community in the 1990s".

 

"There is, it seems, either a reluctance to go back there or a deliberate decision to punish all Somalis, many of whom were not even born during the last international intervention.


"I am not asking outside countries to become active for moral or altruistic reasons. They have a clearly mandated responsibility to become involved in a country where there are widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law."

 

Among the options being considered is the possible deployment of a 28,500-strong multi-national peacekeeping force to replace the small African Union force currently in the country.

 

Persistent violence

 

"I believe Somalia remains a prisoner of the past, never forgiven for the violent actions carried out against the international community in the 1990s"

Ahmedou Ould Abdallah,
UN special envoy

As the council deliberated on increasing UN involvement, violence continued on the ground, with seven people, including a seven-year-old boy, killed on Thursday when fighters briefly overran two government bases.

 

Witnesses said fighters drove government soldiers from two bases before retreating following hours of clashes.

 

On Wednesday, eight people were killed in clashes between fighters and government troops over accusations of looting.

 

Ethiopian troops helped the transitional government defeat the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled Mogadishu and much of the south of the country, in 2006.

 

Since then remnants of the movement have launched almost daily attacks against the government and military targets. 

 

About 7,000 have died since late 2006 and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.


Deployment 'not close'

 

Ould Abdallah told the Security Council that recent encouraging political developments by the government - including a reconciliation effort involving local peacemaking and talks with the opposition - must be matched by security improvements.

Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to the UN, told reporters that it was important for the Security Council to consider "an enhanced UN presence" that might do more "in terms of peacekeeping and to support the African forces that are there".

 

But, he said, "we are not close to deploying a peacekeeping force".

 

Last month the Security Council extended for six months UN endorsement of an African Union (AU) mission to the country, consisting of about 2,000 mostly Ugandan and some Burundian troops.

 

Francis Butagira, Uganda's ambassador to the UN, urged the Security Council to move quickly to support the AU force, which has asked for $817m to fund the operation.