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1ST OF U.S. TROOPS IN SOMALIA WILL HEAD FOR HOME TUESDAY

SHARE 1ST OF U.S. TROOPS IN SOMALIA WILL HEAD FOR HOME TUESDAY

The first American combat troops are going home Tuesday as Washington moves to transfer military control of Somalia to a U.N. command, a handoff that a U.S. spokesman says could occur as early as Feb. 1.

It appears unlikely, however, that such a transfer could be made by month's end. More likely, the United States is simply trying to prod the United Nations into moving faster by announcing it is ready to make the transfer.For one thing, the spokesman, Marine Col. Fred Peck, acknowledged that the U.N. Security Council has not yet adopted resolutions necessary for the transfer.

Peck said the change in the American presidency with a transfer of power from President Bush to President-elect Clinton could contribute to some of the delay.

In a sign of improved security, the first convoy of trucks to northwestern Somalia was heading for its final destination in Hoddur Monday under escort by French troops, said Brenda Barton of the World Food Program.

The 25 trucks, carrying nearly 400 tons of food, started the 400-mile journey in Mogadishu Sunday.

During a visit to Somalia on Jan. 10, Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, criticized the United Nations for "doing nothing" to speed the return of American troops.

Under the current plan, many of the 25,000 American troops will phase out gradually as security improves.