[dehai-news] ST: Facing collapse, Somali rulers plead for Ethiopia to stay

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Dec 02 2008 - 07:34:10 EST

Facing collapse, Somali rulers plead for Ethiopia to stay
      Tuesday 2 December 2008 07:00.

December 1, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) - The Somali Transitional Federal Government has expressed fears that the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in the current conditions with no alternative military force, like a UN peacekeeping mission, could have terrible consequences.

The spokesman for the Presidency of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) Hasan Muhammad Mahmud, alias Xubsireed, said in a statement that the planned withdrawal of Ethiopian troops within this month of December saddens the TFG.

If Ethiopian troops withdraw from Somalia before the full deployment of the 8,000 troops earlier promised by the African Union, the country will slide back to the civil war between Somalis and Islamist groups whose capability has increased, said the spokesman for the Somali presidency.

He added that Ethiopia will also be at risk since it shares a border with Somalia. "We would like to ask Ethiopia to reconsider its decision to withdraw its troops from Somalia," he said.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Osman Elmi Boqore raised similar fears with Voice of America News, saying that after the Ethiopian withdrawal, the TFG may cease to exist.

The spokesman for the Somali presidency, speaking to Dayniile news, said the president is attending matters that are important to the nation in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, which is also the stronghold of the Harti sub-clan of the Darood, the clan affiliation of TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf.

The spokesman said the Puntland administration is part of the TFG and the president is in the region to reconcile presidential candidates who are vying for the leadership of the region with the current president, Adde Muse. The conflict between the Puntland leader and the presidential candidates is mainly about the way elections are to be conducted.

"The president will come back to Mogadishu as soon as his visit to Puntland is over," said the spokesman for the Somali presidency. Some reports previously indicated that the president will not be coming back to Mogadishu due to security reasons after the Ethiopian government made the decision to withdraw its troops from the country.

A coalition of Islamists and other forces now controls much of Somalia aside from parts of Mogadishu and Baidoa, the parliamentary seat, and Puntland and Somaliland in the north.

The Islamic Courts Union had briefly brought control and influence over most of Somalia in 2006 before they were toppled by a U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion at the end of that year. Insurgents affiliated with the Islamists subsequently fought the Ethiopian-backed TFG across Somalia and in urban combat that displaced millions of civilians.

Senior UN officials have called the situation in Somalia the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe.

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