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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ethiopia accuses Eritrea of supporting rebels

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is charging Eritrea with covertly supporting the Union of Islamic Courts, which recently seized power in Mogadishu.

In contrast, Meles noted that Ethiopia fully supports Somalia's transitional institutions in conformity with the international community and East Africa's Inter-governmental Authority on Development.

Meles said, "We reserve the right to defend ourselves against all attempts to destabilize our country."

MISNA news agency reported on June 28 that Zenawi claimed that the UIC represent "the union of desperate forces, the spokesmen of the Eritrean government, the Jihadists and al-Ittihad al-Islamiya, an organization featured in the U.N. list of terrorist groups."

Ethiopia directly supports interim Somali President Abdullahi Yussuf, a former warlord in the northern Somali region of Puntland. Yussuf was chosen by Somalia's interim parliament as the country's new president in October 2004. Because of the turmoil in Mogadishu, Yussuf continues to base his provisional government in Jowhar, 56 miles northwest of the capital.

Somalia been without an effective central government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown on January 26, 1991.

Zenawi said that he has reinforced the "defensive device" along Ethiopia's border with Somalia. On June 17, the Ethiopian government accused Somali armed groups of "provocative" action along the border as the Union of Islamic Courts denounced border crossings by Ethiopian armed forces into Somalia.

In 1977-1979 Ethiopia and Somalia fought a border war after Barre's forces invaded the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, which is predominantly ethnic Somali. During the 1990s, Ethiopia -- with covert U.S. assistance -- inflicted a series of military losses against Sheikh Hassan Aweys' al-Ittihad al-Islamiya armed movement.

Aweys is now the head of the Union of Islamic Courts Supreme Council.
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