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U.S. BACKS ETHIOPIAN ATTACKS IN SOMALIA

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    U.S. BACKS ETHIOPIAN ATTACKS IN SOMALIA By GEORGE GEDDA Tuesday, December 26, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2007
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      U.S. BACKS ETHIOPIAN ATTACKS IN SOMALIA
      By GEORGE GEDDA
      Tuesday, December 26, 2006
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/12/26/national/w130749S85.DTL


      WASHINGTON, (AP) --

      The State Department signaled support Tuesday for Ethiopian military
      operations against Somalia, noting that Ethiopia has had "genuine
      security concerns" stemming from the rise of Islamist forces in its
      eastern neighbor.

      Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos also said that the Ethiopian
      military acted at the request of Somalia's internationally backed
      secular government, which has been resisting with little success the
      spreading influence of the more powerful Islamist forces.

      Gallegos noted that Ethiopia has said that its action is intended to
      prevent further aggression by the Islamic Courts militias.

      Ethiopia's Christian-led government has received counter-terrorism
      assistance from the United States. It includes military training for
      aviation security, police training and border and coastal security,
      the Pentagon said.

      The Bush administration has been increasingly alarmed by the growing
      strength of the militias and the welcome they reportedly have given to
      al-Qaida militants.

      The Islamic militants operate under the umbrella of the Council of
      Islamic Courts.

      The government has no presence in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, its
      reach limited to the western town of Baidoa. In contrast, the CIC has
      dominated the country's entire southern region.

      A priority U.S. goal in Somalia is the capture of three reputed
      al-Qaida militants wanted for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya
      and Tanzania in 1998 and a hotel in Kenya in 2002. The three are from
      Sudan, Kenya and the Comoros Islands, located off Africa's east coast.

      Al-Qaida militants are operating with "great comfort" in Somalia,
      Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said recently.

      The Islamists have caused unease in Washington by expressing interest
      in establishing a "Greater Somalia" that would include ethnic Somali
      regions of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

      According to a U.S. military official, the Ethiopian National Defense
      Forces wrested control of Belet Weyne from the Islamists. The action
      helped to cut an important communications link used by the Islamists
      to supply forces in the north.

      The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the
      sensitivity of the information, also said the U.S. also believes that
      the Ethiopian military has taken Bur Hakaba and Dinsoor, forcing
      Islamic militants to retreat toward Mogadishu.

      The official also said that while there have been some attacks on
      Mogadishu and Baledogle airports, planes can still land at both airports.

      Two weeks ago, the Pentagon recommended a new U.S. military command
      for Africa, which is seen as having greater strategic importance to
      the United States since the start of the fight against terrorism.

      At present, U.S. military responsibility for Africa has been split
      among several commands, all based elsewhere.

      The United States consistently has backed the establishment of an
      African force to help defend the Baidoa government, thus creating a
      power balance between the government and the CIC and enhance prospects
      for negotiations on power sharing.

      But with Ethiopia's invasion, creation of the force now seems highly
      unlikely.

      Ethiopia has been backing the Somali government for months, while
      Eritrea has been supporting the Islamists.

      A report by a U.N. panel last month said that in addition to Ethiopia
      and Eritrea, weapons had been sent to armed groups in Somalia by
      Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Uganda.
      Most of the nations have denied the allegations.

      The shipments would be in violation of a U.N. arms embargo against
      Somalia, in effect since 1992.

      ===

      AU SAYS ETHIOPIA SHOULD WITHDRAW FROM SOMALIA
      Reuters, 12/27/06


      ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) - Ethiopian troops waging war against
      rival Islamists in Somalia should leave the country immediately, the
      African Union (AU) chief said on Wednesday.

      "We call for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops without delay," AU
      chairman Alpha Omar Konare said in a statement. . .

      Konare urged Somalia's interim government and the Somalia Islamic
      Courts Union to end all hostilities and resume Arab League-sponsored
      peace talks that collapsed in Sudan last month.

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