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Friday, December 15, 2006

Meles hints he may not seek a third term, new ploy to woo the west?

Also in the news: [Somalia's Ethiopia supported president says not willing to negotiate with Islamists any longer] - [Somali Islamists vow not to strike government, only Ethiopian troops] - [Somali Islamists reject al-Qaeda link]

International: [calls for Sudan to accept Darfur troops] - [Rice rejects overture to Iran, Syria] - [Huge crowds back Hamas chief after attack] - [Popularity test for Iran's president in local elections] and more of today's top stories

Meles hints he may not seek a third term, new ploy to woo the west?

ETP - This week Washington post reporter Stephanie McCrummen asked Prime Minister Meles if he plans to run for a third term in office, he replied “My party will try not only for a third term but for a tenth term”; when she informed him her question was directed at him personally and not the party; he said “me personally, I think I've had enough”.

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, the prime minister claims his regime cannot be considered 'repressive'. Meles furthermore declares that he does not regret the imprisonment of democratically elected parliamentarians, currently detained at the notorious Qality federal prison.

On December 10th , commemorating human rights day; the Ethiopian Human rights council (EHRCO) disclosed in a press release that since the May 2005 national elections, brutal extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, and torture have been committed against Ethiopian citizens by the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. There have been violations of freedoms of expression, belief, assembly, press freedom, the right to organise, and other violations of political rights, the press release added. (Full interview of prime minister Meles below)

Interview With Meles Zenawi

The Washington Post's Stephanie McCrummen sat down this week with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to discuss rising tensions with Somalia's Islamic Courts, and the state of democracy inside the country.

On the issue of Somalia: Ethiopia is inching closer to war with the Islamic Courts, who have taken over large swaths the country, including its capital, and who have in the past called for creation of a "Greater Somalia," including portions of ethnically Somali Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Diplomats estimate that Ethiopia has at least 8,000 troops in Somalia bolstering the fragile, but internationally recognized transitional government, a claim that Ethiopia has repeatedly denied.

Q: First, your reaction to the call by the Islamic Courts for Ethiopia to withdraw its forces in seven days?

A: They have issued an ultimatum. This does not come as a surprise to me. The declaration is based on falsehoods. It is true we have troops in Baidoa, the capital, who are there to train forces of the transitional federal government, who are an internationally recognized government and who have officially asked for support from Ethiopia. . . . Now, if the transitional government does not want our trainers, we'd be happy to withdraw them. . . . But on a more fundamental level it appears that this jihadist movement is hell-bent on controlling all of Somalia. That for them, the negotiations are a ploy used to facilitate their goal. They see Ethiopia as a stumbling block.(More...)

Somali Islamists vow NOT to strike government, only Ethiopian troops

BAIDOA (Reuters) - Somalia's top Islamist leader said on Friday his fighters did not plan to attack the Horn of Africa nation's interim government but only its "invading" Ethiopian allies.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys mocked as "empty talk" U.S. accusations that al Qaeda had taken over his movement.

"We do not intend to attack the government, but at the same time we are obliged to attack Ethiopians wherever they are," he told Reuters from Mogadishu.

"Our country has been invaded by Ethiopia ... we should have thrown them out a long time ago," added Aweys, saying he regretted the Islamists did not take the government seat of Baidoa when they first rose to power in June. (More...)

Somalia's Ethiopia supported president says not willing to negotiate with Islamists any longer

BAIDOA, Somalia - Somalia's president said Friday that peace talks with the country's Islamic movement are no longer an option because the group's leaders have declared war on his government.

"They are the ones who effectively closed the door to peace talks and they are the ones who are waging the war," Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf told The Associated Press from his office in Baidoa.

Tension has been mounting in recent weeks between Somalia's government, which has Western and U.N. recognition but little authority on the ground, and the Council of Islamic Courts, which controls most of southern Somalia. The Islamists have vowed to launch a holy war starting Tuesday unless Ethiopian troops supporting the government leave Somalia.

"The fighting can happen at any time now," Yusuf said, adding that his administration will not be the first to attack.

The Islamic courts have been steadily gaining power since June, raising concerns about an emerging Taliban-style regime. The United States accuses the group of having ties to al-Qaida, which it denies.

"Al-Qaida is opening up shop in Somalia," Yusuf warned. "This is a new chapter and part of the terror group's plan to wage war against the West." (More...)

Somali Islamists reject al-Qaeda link

Dec 15, 2006 - Somalia's powerful Islamist group has dismissed US comments that its leadership is dominated by al-Qaeda. US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer had said radical forces had sidelined more moderate forces in the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

But an Islamist spokesman says the US is trying to derail stability the UIC has given to much of Somalia this year. As tensions between the UIC and weak interim government, backed by Ethiopia, escalate, fears of a regional war grow.

Ms Frazer warned against a military solution and said the way ahead should be through talks between the two sides. Arab League-mediated talks are scheduled to take place next week in Khartoum, but neither side has confirmed that they will attend. (More...)

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-Huge crowds back Hamas chief after attack
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-Miss USA in danger of losing crown due to behavior