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Ethiopia and Sudan pledge to help Somalia
form broad-based central government

AP- ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Ethiopia and Sudan on Thursday pledged to work for national reconciliation in Somalia and to help with the establishment of a broad-based central government in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

A statement at the end of a three-day visit by Sudan's first vice president Ali Osman Taha said he and his delegation had held extensive discussions with Deputy Prime Minister Adisu Legesse on ways to achieve durable peace in the region.

Ethiopia backs a coalition of Somali warlords and faction leaders opposed to the national transitional government of President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, who was chosen at a peace conference in neighboring Djibouti in August 2000. His government has little influence outside the capital, Mogadishu.

In 1996 and 1997, Ethiopia sent troops to Somalia to crush Islamic fundamentalist forces there that Ethiopia accused of staging attacks on its territory.

Somalia has not had a central government since clan-based political factions ousted President Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991, then turned on each other.

Talks aimed at resolving the differences between Abdiqassim's government and the Somali Reconcilation and Restoration Council were to have taken place in Nairobi, Kenya this month, but so far no date has been set.

After an icy period in relations during the mid-1990s, Ethiopia and Sudan have drawn closer since Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a 2 1/2-year war over their common border. Eritea hosts members of the National Democratic Alliance, which includes southern Sudanese rebels opposed to the government in Khartoum.

Taha's statement also said Sudan and Ethiopia have agreed to consider joint water resource development projects.

Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile in Sudan to form the longest river in the world that flows through the entire length of Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.

It is estimated that the Blue Nile accounts for more than 80 percent of the river's volume, although Egypt is the major user of the river.

Because of domestic turmoil from 1974 to the mid-1990s and also because of lack of investment capital, Ethiopia has not undertaken any major river-development projects.

Sudan has recently become an oil exporter, and production output next year is estimated at 290,000 barrels a day or higher.

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