From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Nov 18 2008 - 10:37:04 EST
Ethiopia won't stay in Somalia "indefinitely" 18 Nov 2008 13:54:01 GMT
ADDIS ABABA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Ethiopia said on Tuesday it was not prepared to continue propping up Somalia's interim government "indefinitely" and urged leaders there to embrace a peace process to stop 17 years of conflict.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf's government has been unable to stop a two-year insurgency by Islamic militia, despite backup from thousands of Ethiopian troops.
U.N.-brokered peace talks in Djibouti to end the war, which has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, have been rejected by Islamist hardliners, while a spat between Yusuf and his prime minister has further hindered the process.
"If they fail to grasp this historic opportunity, we cannot help them by taking the responsibility on their behalf," Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopian foreign minister, told a regional meeting.
"I would like to reiterate unequivocally that Ethiopian troops are not prepared to continue paying heavy responsibilities indefinitely... It is crucial to send the right message to Somali leaders at this critical time," he told fellow foreign ministers from around the region.
The U.N. plan foresees the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. Addis Ababa welcomes that and wants to pull out, but not if that leaves the government at the mercy of the Islamists.
During the meeting, Seyoum said Kenya had pledged to send a battalion of troops to boost an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force. There was no independent confirmation from Nairobi.
"Kenya's decision is a great commitment," Seyoum said at the end of a day-long meeting to discuss the Somalia crisis.
Some 3,000 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are in the capital Mogadishu, short of the intended 8,000-strong AU mission.
(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Writing by Wangui Kanina)
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