UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council ignored recommendations for targeted sanctions and a tighter existing arms embargo in Somalia, despite a spike in violence and fears that Islamic fundamentalists have gained strength in the chaotic nation.
The recommendations Wednesday had come from one of the council's own committees, which warned that warlords in Somalia routinely violate the current arms embargo and have enriched themselves by selling fishing licenses and exporting charcoal.
The council committee said in a report that the influence of the Islamic fundamentalists was great now that they are a "third force" on par with the transitional government and an alliance of groups in the capital, Mogadishu.
Those fundamentalists have gained the "backing and military capability to be a credible contender for power in Somalia," the committee said.
The report came as secular warlords and Islamic extremists clashed for a fifth day in Mogadishu. At least 122 people have been killed in the escalating violence.
The fighting has intensified steadily since Sunday, when the Islamic militants, who have alleged ties to Al Qaeda, and the warlords took up strategic positions in Mogadishu.
Most victims in the recent fighting have been civilians caught in the crossfire. More than 200 people have been wounded in the violence, doctors say.
The Security Council passed a resolution Wednesday urging all nations to adhere to the existing arms embargo in Somalia and asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to re-establish a monitoring group to investigate violators and make recommendations on how to improve compliance.
The resolution ignored recommendations from the committee that the council impose travel bans and asset freezes against some Somali warlords.
Some ambassadors said they would keep up pressure for sanctions.
"The situation is deteriorating so I think it's important that we continue to press the sanctions, and we're trying to target them and have an effect on a place that has no functioning government," Deputy U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders said.
The resolution also refused to address calls for two economic embargoes: one on Somali charcoal, which is environmentally destructive and enriching the warlords; and another to ban the export of fish from Somali waters, which are caught by foreign vessels that pay the warlords expensive licenses.
"In our discussions we called upon everybody to observe arms embargo, and if things continue that way maybe tougher measures will need to be taken," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
Somalia has had no effective central government since 1991, when warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other — carving this nation of an estimated 8 million people into a patchwork of anarchic, clan-based fiefdoms.
Islamic fundamentalists have portrayed themselves as an alternative capable of bringing order and peace, but they have not hesitated to use force and have allegedly linked up with Al Qaeda terrorists. Rumors abound that the United States is backing an alliance fighting them.