January 20, 2007

Eritrea has said arch-foe Ethiopia is stuck in a "quagmire" in Somalia

ASMARA, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Eritrea has said arch-foe Ethiopia is stuck in a "quagmire" in Somalia weeks after its military helped the interim government topple rival Islamists.

In an interview with Al Jazeera television late on Thursday, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki said it was too early to know the outcome of Addis Ababa's military intervention in Somalia.

"This is a quagmire and time will tell who has been defeated," he said.

"The Islamic Courts have not been defeated. The Somalis have never been defeated. People who have wanted to intervene for their own agendas in Somalia have put themselves in a very serious circumstance," Isaias said.

The United Nations and Washington accused Asmara of sending weapons and troops to the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), which threatened to over-run the Ethiopian-backed government before being routed in a two-week war.

Eritrea denies the charge.

Analysts had worried the two rivals' involvement in Somalia could lead to a wider regional conflict, but Ethiopia's rapid victory on the battlefield largely laid to rest those fears.

Tensions linger after Asmara and Addis Ababa fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed some 70,000 people.

Somalia's government wants the urgent deployment of an African Union peacekeeping force that was approved by the United Nations before the war, but Isaias said the continental body lacked the "organisational capacity" to be effective.

"We need to know what will be the mission and second, how would the African Union (succeed), which is proved to have failed in other parts (of Africa)," he said.

AlertNet news
U.S. ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger addresses a news conference on the Somalia crisis in Kenya's capital Nairobi January 17, 2007. Somalia's parliament on Wednesday ousted powerful speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, who split with the president and prime minister late last year over his overtures to rival Islamists.

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