Ethiopia calls for international aid to fund Somalia

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi yesterday appealed for international funding for his country's military intervention in lawless Somalia, saying his troops would withdraw within two weeks.

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi yesterday appealed for international funding for his country's military intervention in lawless Somalia, saying his troops would withdraw within two weeks.

"We don't have the money to take on the burden individually. The international community should provide funding," Meles told parliament in Addis Ababa, saying the cost of the campaign had been "huge".

Meles, pictured right, had earlier rejected calls by African and Arab nations for an immediate withdrawal of his troops from Somalia, where they helped the country's weak government rout an Islamist movement.

But he also appeared to contradict his Somali counterpart, Ali Mohamed Gedi, who said last week that Ethiopian forces would remain for as long as they were needed.

"Leaving Somalia immediately would be irresponsible. We will stay put for a short time to achieve stability," Meles said. "It could be two weeks."

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, right, and a top US diplomat were due in the country to "discuss sharing the burden of Somalia".

Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, has announced plans to convene an urgent regional summit to discuss ways of restoring stability in Somalia.

Political analysts have said a prolonged Ethiopian stay in Somalia might antagonise many Somalis, who have fought and lost two wars against Addis Ababa over the ownership of the Ogaden region in southern Ethiopia.

The Somali government, backed by Ethiopian forces, routed the Islamists from the port of Kismayo, their last stronghold, on Monday, effectively seizing control of their territories.

The Islamists, who are accused of having links to al- Qaeda, have conceded defeat after nearly two weeks of clashes, but have vowed to wage a guerrilla war against the Somali government troops and their Ethiopian backers.

But Meles said, with help, such threats would not materialise.

"Mogadishu's case leads us to understand that the guerrilla warfare can be avoided if there is stability in the country," he said, referring to his troops entering Mogadishu with scant opposition.

Faced with a possible scramble for power, Meles urged Somali leaders to prevent the return to power of the warlords who ruled the lawless nation after the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The Islamists, whose six-month rule managed to restore a degree of law and order, evicted the warlords in June and started imposing sharia law in south and central Somalia.

"We call on the government of Somalia to work hard to prevent warlordism and to create an environment in which Somalis can participate in government," Meles said.

Residents bristled with anger last week when Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, a warlord seen as rich and ruthless, was spotted on his former Mogadishu turf accompanied by a faction leader, Abdi Nure Siad. Analysts have warned that the fall of the Islamists might not mark the end of the anarchy and violence that have blighted this nation of 10million. - Sapa-AFP

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