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Eritrea warns of chaos in Somalia if UN approves deployment of peacekeepers


ASMARA (AFP) - Eritrea has warned of a fresh eruption of "chaos and turmoil" in Somalia if the UN Security Council approves the deployment of African peacekeepers in the lawless African nation.

As the Security Council mulled a United States proposal to lift the 1992 arms embargo and deploy troops in the country, Eritrea cautioned that "foreign intervention will only destabilize Somalia."

"The government of Eritrea calls on members of the Security Council to refrain from taking ill-advised measures fraught with dangerous implications for peace and security in Somalia," a foreign ministry statement said Saturday.

"(It) will exacerbate the civil strife that has bedevilled Somalia for the past 15 years and plunge the country into an intractable quagmire," it said.

Asmara has been accused of supporting the Somali powerful Islamists while its arch-rival Ethiopia has deployed troops to backing the weak transitional government based in Baidoa, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of the capital.

Analysts have accused Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are still at odds over their unresolved border dispute, of fighting a proxy war in Somalia, which has been lawless since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.

Addis Ababa denies claims that it had sent thousands of combat troops to Somalia, insisting that it has only deployed a few hundred military experts to train and advise the Somali government.

Eritrea has also flatly rejected the claims, but said Ethiopia should stay out of Somalia.

Asmara told the UN Security Council that Horn of Africa countries were "divided on polarized positions", over the deployment of the peace mission in Somalia, a nation of 10 million people.

The resolution text, circulated by the United States on Friday endorses the proposed deployment of a 8,000-strong peacekeeping mission manned by troops from the seven-nation east African regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

It would also call for an easing of the 1992 arms embargo on Somalia to allow "supplies of weapons and military equipment and technical training and assistance intended solely for the support or use by the (IGAD) force."

The move is aimed at bolstering the internationally recognized but weak government, which is on the verge of all-out war with Islamists in control of Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia.

On Monday, the United States said it would suspend issuing tourist and business visas in Eritrea from next week until Asmara allowed a new US consular officer into the country.

Somalia welcomes U.S. draft on peacekeepers

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's interim government welcomed a U.S. proposal at the U.N. Security Council to deploy east African peacekeepers, but the newly powerful Islamists who have seized control of most of the country rejected it.

Washington's draft resolution would also ease a widely violated 14-year-old United Nations arms embargo on the Horn of Africa country to let the peacekeepers legally bring in their arms and train and equip local security forces.

Somali's interim government is Western-backed but virtually powerless. Residents said on Saturday the Islamists had seized another town from government forces.

The government's information minister, Ali Jama Jangali, said he hoped the draft would be adopted quickly.

"Our position is very clear. We were the ones who requested this so that we can train our own forces. This is a move in the right direction," he told Reuters from the administration's seat in the provincial town of Baidoa.

Word of the U.S. initiative set off concern this week when an influential Brussels-based think tank and European experts warned it could backfire by undermining the government, strengthening the Islamists and leading to a wider, regional war.

Eritrea, one of the countries accused of breaking the arms embargo, said the "ill-advised" U.S. proposal would "exacerbate the civil strife that has bedeviled Somalia for the past fifteen years and plunge (it) into an intractable quagmire."

In the latest reports of troop movements, residents said fighters loyal to the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) had taken over the town of Diinsoor, some 120 km (75 miles) southwest of Baidoa.

Local resident Abukar Ali Jale said Islamists riding more than 30 "technicals" -- pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, rockets and artillery -- were now in the town.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

An Islamist spokesman said residents had invited the SICC into Diinsoor. He denounced the U.S. draft resolution.

"The Americans have no right to ask for foreign troops for Somalia," Islamist Abdirahman Ali Mudey told a news conference in Mogadishu. "We are against any foreign troops coming to Somalia, no matter where they are from."

After routing U.S.-backed warlords from the capital in June, the SICC seized much of the south -- directly challenging the authority of the government.

The United States says the SICC, born of a coalition of sharia courts, is harboring al Qaeda operatives who threaten the region and elsewhere, a charge the Islamists deny.

Stressing that its only goal was to support peace and stability in Somalia through "an inclusive political process," Washington's draft resolution would call on the SICC to halt any further military expansion and to reject individuals "with an extremist agenda or links to international terrorism."

But it would also call for "credible dialogue" between the Islamists and the government. A third round of Arab League-sponsored peace talks collapsed on November 1 in Sudan.

The U.N. measure would exclude peacekeepers from bordering states like Ethiopia, which diplomats say has sent thousands of troops into Somalia to prop up the administration in Baidoa.

Addis Ababa denies that, and says it has only sent in several hundred military trainers

Ethiopian premier, US Albright hold talks on Somalia, Darfur

(ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has held talks with former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, here today on Somalia and Sudan’s Darfur.

The two sides discussed on issues related to the current situation in Somalia and Darfur as well on the relations between US and Ethiopia. Meles on the occasion briefed Albright on the political situation in the Horn of Africa.

Albright lauded the efforts being made by Prime Minister Meles to reduce poverty and maintain democracy in Ethiopia.

Albright who is currently associate chairperson of the Pro-Poor an international commission noted she has exchanged views with Prime Minister Meles on ways that would enable the commission to support the poverty reduction efforts in Ethiopia. Albright said the commission will also be doing pre-assessment activities to help improve legal empowerment of people.

“We have been conducting consultations in the region. We were in Kenya and Tanzania and now here to see what the commission can do to listen to ideas from the local constituency about what can be done about the most serious problem in the world. And that is the number of poor people that are not part of any legal system.”

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