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Piracy could top agenda as Somalia donors' conference opens

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an appeal for funds to help Somalia as a donors' conference got underway in Brussels. The subject of piracy threatened to dominate proceedings.

Somali pirates taking Ukrainian Faina ship

Piracy promises to be the topic of the day at the donors' conference

As international donors gathered at a conference to help bring stability to Somalia, it seemed rampant piracy in busy shipping lanes off the Somali coast - a subject that has topped international news bulletins for months - was likely to dominate the talks.

The one-day conference in Brussels aims to raise at least 128 million euros ($166 million) to finance African peacekeepers and support Somalia's fledgling police and security forces.

But European Commission President Jose Manuel Barrosso said ahead of the talks that he was worried that the piracy problem might divert resources in the lawless nation.

Piracy a 'symptom', Ban says

"If we only treat the symptoms, piracy at sea, but not its root causes -- the decay of the state and poverty -- we will fail," Barroso said ahead of the meeting.

For his part, Ban said international funding for Somalia's new government and African Union peacekeepers is vital to help stabilize the lawless nation, a prerequisite for stopping the persistent pirate attacks.

At a news conference, Ban told reporteres that piracy is a symptom of anarchy and insecurity on the ground. He said international help would enable the new government to establish authority and ensure reconstruction.

No plans for peace force

Ban reiterated that he had no intention of sending a UN force to Somalia any time soon, saying a peacekeeping operation would go only when "circumstances and conditions are appropriate."

Organisers of the meeting, which is being chaired by the UN and the African Union, say more than $250 million is needed for next year to improve security in a state that has functioned without a central government since 1991 and is mired in conflict.

Also due to attend was Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel leader elected in January at UN-brokered talks and widely seen as the best hope for restoring stability.

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