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By Patrick Worsnip
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Less than one-third of the aid that international donors pledged six months ago to help Somalia's government boost security and fight piracy has been received, U.N. officials said on Thursday.
The donors agreed at an April 23 conference in Brussels to provide almost $214 million (133 million pounds) to help the embattled interim government end 18 years of lawlessness in the east African country and off its coast.
The aim was to build up a police force of some 10,000 personnel and a security force of 5,000, and to bolster the African Union AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which currently stands at 5,000.
But U.N. officials said less than $70 million had been received so far. They could not immediately say which countries had failed to pay up.
Briefing a Security Council meeting on Somalia on Thursday, U.N. political chief Lynn Pascoe said the Brussels pledges "need to be fulfilled immediately."
"The most critical element for the international community's assistance is speed," he said. "Money received today in Somalia will have a far greater impact on stability than that which arrives in three months' time."
Fighting between the government and Islamist rebel groups has killed 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.7 million from their homes.
Despite foreign naval patrols, attacks on ships by Somali pirates have soared, reaching 148 in the first half of 2009. Thirty-one hijackings were successful, netting tens of millions of dollars for the pirates. Diplomats say the lawlessness on land is a major cause of the piracy.
Pascoe said he would meet key donors on Friday to discuss the fulfilment of pledges.
Somalia and other African countries have urged the United Nations to send a full-fledged peacekeeping force to take over from AMISOM.
While the world body has made contingency plans for such a force, the Security Council has been leery of sending peacekeepers into a raging conflict, and several speakers in Thursday's debate said the time was still not right.
Somalia's U.N. ambassador, Elmi Ahmed Duale, addressing the council, repeated an AU call for the international community to blockade Somali ports and monitor rebel-held Somali airports to prevent supplies and manpower reaching the Islamists.
He also renewed AU calls for U.N. sanctions against "spoilers," in a clear reference to Eritrea, which a U.N. monitoring group says has channelled arms and other supplies to the rebels. Eritrea denies the charge.
British Ambassador John Sawers told the council London would support such action.
"The council will need to give serious consideration to the African Union's requests over the coming weeks," Sawers said.
Some council diplomats, however, said they saw little likelihood of action in the near future.

Reuters