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Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2006

Premier: Nations supporting militants

July 30, 2006

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— Somalia's prime minister charged Saturday that Egypt, Libya and Iran are arming the Islamic militants who challenge his rule, lengthening the list of countries accused of fueling this country's political chaos.

Premier Mohammed Ali Gedi and the militants have been trading allegations that Ethiopia - Somalia's traditional rival - is backing the prime minister and Eritrea - Ethiopia's enemy - is helping the militants.

Gedi's weak government, meanwhile, has been unraveling. Two lawmakers were shot this week - one fatally - and Gedi faces a no-confidence vote after 18 members of parliament resigned from his administration, saying it has failed to bring peace.

"Egypt, Libya and Iran, whom we thought were friends, are engaged in fueling the conflict in Somalia by supporting the terrorists," Gedi said. He cited unnamed sources in his government and offered no proof.

The leader of the Islamic militia, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, denied receiving support from foreign countries and said Gedi was "trying to distract attention from his own troubles."

Egypt's foreign ministry denied claims Cairo was helping the militants, saying it supports peace and stability in Somalia.

The Islamic militia has rallied its supporters by condemning reports that Ethiopian troops have entered the country to protect the government. Somalia's president has asked for Ethiopia's support - a decision that infuriated many Somalis.

The government, in turn, accuses the Islamic militia of receiving weapons from Eritrea. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody border war from 1998-2000, and have since backed rebel groups to destabilize each other.

Somalia has had no real government since 1991, when its longtime leader was overthrown.

The interim government was established nearly two years ago with the support of the U.N. but has failed to assert any power outside its base in Baidoa, 155 miles from the capital, Mogadishu.

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