Somalia’s new Islamist-dominated opposition alliance two Sharifs said, Today its forces have launched a bid to oust Ethiopian troops from their country.

2 Sharifs

Halkaan ka akhri

ASMARA (AFP) 20. Sep 2007- Somalia’s new Islamist-dominated opposition alliance said Thursday its forces have launched a bid to oust Ethiopian troops from their country.

“The alliance is undertaking every effort to get rid of Ethiopia,” said spokesman Zakariya Mahamud Abdi. “We plan to spread the resistance in Mogadishu, and we have already sent people inside Somalia. This is our job.”

The Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) was formed last week in the Eritrean capital Asmara, vowing to drive Ethiopia out of Somalia and nominating Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as its chairman.

Ethiopian troops helped Somalia’s embattled transitional government forces last year and ousted the Islamic Courts Union, which briefly took control of large parts of the country.

Since being defeated by Ethiopia’s vastly superior military machine, the insurgents have reverted to guerrilla tactics, launching daily hit-and-run attacks on government targets in Mogadishu.

The new organisation’s 191-member central committee was to continue to meet in Asmara, discussing strategy, a charter and appointment of leaders.

Observers say there are disagreements over filling remaining leadership positions, with dominant Islamists, exiled lawmakers and diaspora representatives all jockeying for key posts.

However, Abdi said the negotiations would soon be solved.

“The consultation process is still ongoing on how to go forward, but we hope it will be decided in the next few days”, Abdi told AFP.

Islamist and other opposition leaders formed the alliance in Eritrea after boycotting a government-sponsored reconciliation meeting that ended last month.

The US ambassador in Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, argued Thursday that the Asmara group was isolated and added he had no plans to seek a meeting with its leader.

“What was evident is the isolation of the people in Asmara and their inability to draw together a broad-based or inclusive group,” he said of the week-long opposition congress in the Eritrean capital.

“We are also seing indications that some of the parliamentarians who went to Asmara now want to get back in the (reconciliation) process,” he added.

Ranneberger, a key US official on Somalia policy, told reporters in Nairobi he had already met Sheikh Sharif twice and had been “very disappointed” in what he said was the Islamist leader’s unwillingness to cooperate.

The ambassador praised what he described as the “meaty results” of the six-week reconciliation congress that ended last month in Mogadishu.

He also took heart in Saudi Arabia’s endorsement of the reconciliation process, said Washington was willing to fund further meetings and warned against a premature departure of Ethiopian troops.

Speaking at the same press conference, US special envoy to Somalia John Yates said the presence of Arab peacekeepers in Somalia would be “quite acceptable”.

Somali transitional government leaders in the Saudi city of Jeddah last week signed a reconciliation accord — including recomendations by the Mogadishu talks — reviving an idea for an Arab-African force under the aegis of the United Nations to eventually replace Ethiopan troops.

Some 1,600 Ugandan troops are currently deployed in Mogadishu as part of an African Union peacekeeping force that was initially supposed to number 8,000 soldiers but has been slow to materialise.

It has struggled to restore order in the capital Mogadishu.

Sourse (AFP)

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