January 09, 2007

Egypt's Mubarak, Eritrea's Afwerki discuss stabilizing Somalia

The Associated Press

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt: The Egyptian and Eritrean presidents emphasized Tuesday the need to stabilize war-torn Somalia and the entire Horn of Africa region.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's spokesman told journalists following the talks with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, "We are working toward achieving calm in order to avert further deterioration in Somalia."

"This should prevent the war lords from returning and clear the way for African Union peace keeping forces be sent (to Somalia)," said Suleiman Awad, the Egyptian spokesman after the leaders met in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

Awad said Egypt is also in contacts with other parties to try to resolve the conflict in Somalia.

"This will provide the chance and create the climate for the Ethiopian troops to withdraw," he said.

Somalia has not had an effective government since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991, plunging the country into years of anarchy and civil war.

Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia last month to counter an Islamic movement that had challenged the weak, but internationally recognized government in Mogadishu.

The government was formed with the help of the U.N. in 2004 to serve as a transitional body to help the country emerge from war, but it has struggled to assert its authority.

Somalia accuses Eritrea of meddling in its affairs by supporting the Islamic group because of Eritrea's hostility toward Ethiopia, which supports the struggling Somalian government.

On Tuesday, two U.S. airstrikes in Somalia killed large numbers of Islamic extremists believed to be sheltering suspects in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa.

It was the first overt military action by the U.S. in Somalia since it led a U.N. force in the 1990s that intervened in Somalia in an effort to fight famine. The mission led to clashes between U.N. forces and Somali warlords, including the "Black Hawk Down" battle that left 18 U.S. servicemen dead.


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