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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Heavy fighting erupts in Somalia

Also in the news: [Many in Ethiopia See Premier's Talk of War As Ploy to Tighten Grip] - [EU Envoy makes bid to avoid war in Somalia ] - [In response to the Interview With Meles Zenawi]

International: [Libya Sentences 6 to Die in H.I.V. Case] - [Cheney to testify at CIA leak trial] - [Al-Zawahri: U.S. Should Talk to al-Qaida] and more of today's top stories

European Commissioner Louis Michel with UIC leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. 20 Dec,06 (more on this story below)

Heavy fighting erupts in Somalia

Heavy fighting has broken out close to the base of the weak Somali interim government in Baidoa. A deadline from Islamists for Ethiopia to withdraw troops from Somalia or face "major attacks" expired on Tuesday.

Residents say pro-government forces and the Islamic militia exchanged mortar shells at Daynunay, 20km from Baidoa. A European Union envoy was in Baidoa to meet officials. There are fears an all-out war would plunge the entire Horn of Africa region into crisis.

On a mission to get peace talks to resume, the EU's development commissioner, Louis Michel, has now travelled on to the capital, Mogadishu, and met Union of Islamic Court (UIC) leaders. (More...)

Many in Ethiopia See Premier's Talk of War As Ploy to Tighten Grip
Washington Post
Stephanie McCrummen

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- War or no war with Somalia, Mulunesh Abebayhu wants out. Out of her teaching job, where Ethiopian security forces constantly harass her because of her political views.

Out of this city, where hundreds of protesters were killed by police bullets after disputed elections last year. And, if she can manage, out of this country that she believes has plunged into the abyss of dictatorship at the hands of its prime minister, Meles Zenawi, a staunch ally of the United States in the vulnerable Horn of Africa.

"He confuses the Westerners so that he can keep ruling," said Abebayhu, 54, an opposition member arrested along with an estimated 30,000 others in the sweeping post-election crackdown last year. "Our party does not believe in this war. Our priority is to eradicate poverty, not go to war. Meles knows this war is a way for his system to survive."

As Ethiopia and Somalia's Islamic Courts movement inch closer each day to all-out conflict, a widespread view among people here in the capital is that Meles is using the conflict to distract people from a vast array of internal problems and to justify further repression of opposition groups, including ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia.

In particular, opponents of war say he is playing up the claim that there are al-Qaeda operatives within the Islamic Courts in order to maintain the support of the U.S. government, which relies on a steady flow of Ethiopian intelligence that some regional analysts say is of dubious value.

A recent attempt by Congress to sanction the Ethiopian government for widespread human rights violations failed after former Republican House leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), lobbying on behalf of the Ethiopian government, argued that the United States needs Ethiopia in order to fight terrorism.(More...)

In response to the Interview With Meles Zenawi

For almost a week now I have been trying to make peace with the interview given bZenawi to a reporter from the Washington Post. I have re-read it several times, alternately cursed and laughed, yet each time I pass the pages lying on my coffee table it makes my blood boil.

I just can’t seem to digest the dispicable irony of this man publicly claiming support for the transitional government of Somalia (TGS) solely on the grounds that “it represents all the clans in Somalia” (as reported in the Ethiopian Herald, July 2006)—a bold claim from a dictator whose entire leadership has been fashioned from the divide-and-rule tactics of a minotrity clique!

There has not, as of yet, been significant evidence to suggest that the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) has any intention of establishing Taliban-style rule and the threats of “jihadist attack’ on Ethiopian soil remain greatly exaggerated--despite his cunning attempts to ridicule the “intelligent people in the 21st century” who correctly assume that unprovoked invasion could eventually push the Courts (10 out of 15 of which are currently considered moderate) to retreat into extremism, resorting to terrorist methods in response to the unprovoked attacks. (More...)

EU Envoy makes bid to avoid war in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya - A European Union envoy plans to fly to Somalia to promote peace talks after weeks of saber rattling by the besieged government and an advancing Islamic movement.

But with troops on the move, suspected terrorists emerging as leaders and foreign fighters pouring into the country, only masterful diplomacy and some arm twisting will get both sides to back away from the brink of war for very long.

Louis Michel, the European commissioner for development and aid, will try to get the two sides to stop fighting and commit to high-level peace talks, according to an EU statement released Tuesday.

Fears of a full-blown civil war have intensified in recent weeks as both the government and Muslim leaders dismissed efforts to schedule peace talks and threatened military action. Both sides have moved fighters, fuel and ammunition to the front lines.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991. The current government, supported by troops from neighboring Ethiopia, holds only a small area around the central town of Baidoa. The Islamic militias control the capital, Mogadishu, but have also fanned out across most of southern Somalia.(More...)

Today's Top Stories

-Libya Sentences 6 to Die in H.I.V. Case
-Cheney to testify at CIA leak trial
-Al-Zawahri: U.S. Should Talk to al-Qaida
-Spain: ETA peace process in 'preliminary' phase
-One Last Time, Rocky!