Vol. 5 Num 920 Thu. December 28, 2006  
Front Page

African Union, UAE urge Ethiopia to quit Somalia

The United Arab Emirates yesterday called on Ethiopia to withdraw its troops from Somalia, where Islamist forces are fighting government troops backed by Addis Ababa.

The appeal was made by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohammad Hussein al-Shaali during a meeting in Abu Dhabi with Mahmud Ahmad Jaz, an envoy of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who delivered a message to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

Voicing the UAE's "concern" over the armed hostilities in Somalia, Shaali urged Addis Ababa to "halt this war" and called for "the withdrawal of foreign forces from Somalia," the state WAM news agency reported.

He also urged countries neighboring Somalia to "encourage national reconciliation among various Somali factions."

The UAE's call came after Ethiopian-backed Somali government troops ousted Islamist forces from a key southern town and rolled closer to the capital Mogadishu as a second week of heavy fighting began.

The African Union and the Arab League both called on Ethiopia on Wednesday to pull out thousands of its troops from Somalia.

The secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meanwhile repeated an earlier call for Ethiopia to pull its troops out of the Horn of Africa country and appealed to all parties not to extend the fighting to Mogadishu.

"Fighting in Mogadishu is likely to lead to huge human losses," forcing thousands of civilians to flee and "exacerbating the humanitarian tragedy already unfolding" in Somalia, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said in a statement issued at OIC headquarters in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The Ethiopian government has given threats to its own country's security and the alleged Al-Qaeda links of Somalia's powerful Islamist movement as reasons for open military intervention backing the weak but internationally recognised government in its lawless Horn of Africa neighbour.

Meanwhile, the African Union yesterday told Ethiopia to pull out thousands of its troops from Somalia, where they are fighting alongside pro-government forces, "without delay."

"We are calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops without delay," AU Commission chairman Alpha Omar Konare said in the body's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

"We appeal to all parties to cease hostilities without delay and resume dialogue that started in Khartoum under the aegis of the Arab League, the AU and IGAD," Konare said at the end of an AU and Arab League meeting here.

Earlier, the Arab League made a similar call after an emergency meeting in Cairo, warning that the conflict pitting Ethiopians and government fighters against a powerful Islamist movement could "threaten the peace and stability of the Horn of Africa."

The calls came after allied Ethiopian-Somali forces captured an key town north of Mogadishu and drove out its Islamist controllers on the eighth day of heavy fighting and were reportedly heading south.

Fighting between the two sides erupted last week after the Islamists, who had demanded the withdrawal of Ethiopia troops from Somalia, launched an attack on the seat of the interim government in the southern central town of Baidoa.