The UN Security Council on Wednesday renewed the mandate of an African peacekeeping force in Somalia for just four months amid a dispute over an arms embargo against the strife-torn country.

A 17,000-strong African Union force is propping up the new Somali government, which was warned of the lingering threat from Islamist militants on Wednesday by a deadly car bomb outside the parliament in Mogadishu.

UN mandates for such forces are generally extended for a year but there are a number of disputes over Somalia, diplomats said.

These include an African Union demand to ease a two decade old arms embargo against Somalia, the role of Ethiopian troops in the country and whether the country should be allowed to sell stocks of charcoal.

Charcoal exports out of the port of Kismayo has been a key source of funds for the Shebab militants who have been put on the defensive by Somali government and AU forces.

“The situation in Somalia is changing rapidly. We have a more legitimate political leadership than ever before,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, whose country has taken a leading role in international efforts to help the provisional government.

Lyall Grant said the attack outside the parliament in which at least one person was killed shows that Somalia remains in a “perilous” state.

He said the four month mandate for the force, officially known as AMISOM, would allow the UN Security Council and African Union to review the arms embargo and the charcoal trade.

“My government will continue to work urgently with the president and the government of Somalia and with council colleagues over the few months to find a Somali-led solution to these important issues,” Lyall Grant told the council.

Somalia had pressed for a new one year mandate for AMISOM but the 15-nation council voted unanimously for the four month extension up to March 7, 2013.

Source: AFP