UNITED NATIONS - The top U.N. envoy for Somalia said Wednesday that Somalia is at "a turning point" and needs international support, especially military equipment, training for its security forces and money to pay them.

Ahmedou Ould Abdallah told the U.N. Security Council the Somali government is resisting attempts by Islamist insurgents to overthrow it and seize power illegally.

"It is clear that the population and its traditional leaders reject violence and those behind it," he said. "Therefore the support of the international community is even more crucial at this time."

Abdallah, of Mauritania, told the council the time has come for the U.N. mission to move its offices from Nairobi to Somalia, and he called for establishment of a well-protected "Green Zone" like the one in Iraq. He also said diplomats and nongovernment organization should relocate to Mogadishu.

"We can only work effectively for peace with the Somalis and address pressing humanitarian needs if we are close to the victims of famine, violence and different abuses," he said.

Abdallah has previously called for the U.N. mission to move to Mogadishu, but the transfer has been repeatedly delayed because of security concerns.

Two allied Islamist insurgent groups - al-Shabab and the Islamic Party - launched an offensive after the return of an exiled insurgent leader in April that has killed hundreds of Somalis and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the council last week that the violence has worsened the humanitarian crisis in the country, with at least 3.2 million people - 43 per cent of Somalia's population - requiring food and other aid.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos and anarchy.

The fragile U.N.-backed government and an undermanned, poorly resourced African Union peacekeeping force have struggled to defend government buildings, the port and airport in the capital, Mogadishu. The government holds only a few blocks in the city.

Abdallah, the U.N. special representative for Somalia, told the council that "while the situation remains fragile, there are positive developments in Somalia."

"Despite multiple constraints, the government is resisting and repelling multiple attempts to overthrow it and seize power illegally by force," he said. "It is also overcoming the two decades of skepticism over Somalia."