Somali groups want Ethiopian troops out

DJIBOUTI - Representatives of Somalia's civil society warned yesterday of a worsening humanitarian crisis and called for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, saying their exit would accelerate a settlement of the country's 18-year conflict.

DJIBOUTI - Representatives of Somalia's civil society warned yesterday of a worsening humanitarian crisis and called for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, saying their exit would accelerate a settlement of the country's 18-year conflict.

The representatives from nine groups met members of the UN Security Council, who came to Djibouti to encourage Somalia's transitional government - and an opposition alliance - to hold peace talks.

The alliance included human rights, small business and women's groups as well as peace activists, representatives of clans - and the Somali diaspora.

The Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia on Monday ruled out a face-to-face meeting unless the government set a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

But Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf said the Ethiopian force backing his fragile government would not leave until fighting stopped and a UN peacekeeping force was deployed.

Britain's UN ambassador John Sawers and South Africa's UN ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, who are co-leading the security council trip to Djibouti, reiterated that both the government and the opposition want Ethiopian troops to withdraw.

They said the issue was the "sequencing" of when and under what conditions during the peace process a withdrawal should take place. - Sapa-AP

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