U.N. Blasts U.S. Deadline on Somalia Promise to Leave Undermines Missions Elsewhere, Source Says

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The decision to pull U.S. forces out of Somalia in six months threatens the entire U.N. operation there and jeopardizes U.N. peacekeeping missions everywhere, a high-ranking U.N. official said Monday.

Haiti, he said, is the first result: The mob that blocked the landing of U.S. soldiers there Monday drew the lesson from Somalia that U.S. and U.N. forces, if blocked, simply will go home.

Haiti shows that President Bill Clinton's decision to pull the U.S. contingent out of Somalia by March 31 "is having a real international dimension," said the official, who requested anonymity.

Clinton's order clearly has thrown U.N. headquarters in New York into disarray. After four post-Cold War years in which the United Nations saw itself as the focus of a "new world order," it now is scrambling just to keep its peacekeeping role alive.

Suddenly, the official said, the overriding problem for the United Nations in Somalia is not the fighting, or the hunt for Mohamed Farrah Aidid, but the gap that will be left by the U.S. soldiers and the threat that other nations will follow suit.

"Aidid is not the real problem," he said. "The real problem is what will be the situation after March 31."

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in a public plea to Clinton and other leaders, said that the United Nations' member nations must support it "if they don't want to play by themselves the role of policemen of the world."

Boutros-Ghali reminded Clinton that "in the United States, public opinion is not ready to play the role of sheriff."

Talking Monday with a small group of reporters representing news media throughout the world, the secretary-general touched a theme that has infuriated his staff for most of the past week: The incessant rhetoric from Washington that has blamed him and the United Nations for the questionable military operations that culminated in a disastrous raid that left 17 American soldiers dead.

"I don't want to provoke the member states," he said in reply to a question about his role as scapegoat. "I need the member states. . . . I must help the member states so that they will be able to help me. If the member states need the United Nations to overcome certain internal problems, the United Nations must accept."

He went on, "The United States public opinion is not ready. …