03/12/06 (B372) BBC : Ethiopians meet Somali Islamists in Djibouti. La rencontre de la dernière chance avant le déclenchement d’un confilt armé ? (Info lectrice)

Deputy Foreign Minister, Tekeda Alemu, has held direct talks in Djibouti with
senior representatives of Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts.

Ethiopia says it explained its policy of backing Somalia’s transitional government
against the Islamists.

of neighbouring nations also took part, as well as Kenya’s ambassador to Somalia.

The two
sides have clashed in the past month, with the Islamists pledging to force
Ethiopian troops out of Somalia.

Ethiopia says it has held several meetings with the Union of Islamic Courts
(UIC) to try to resolve their differences.


The BBC’s
Africa editor, Martin Plaut, says the news of contacts between the two sides
is a surprising revelation.

there have been fears that the sporadic clashes would escalate to all-out
war with the Islamists on one side, and Somalia’s transitional government
on the other side alongside the Ethiopians.

But our
correspondent says there has been no indication from Addis Ababa of what message
they communicated to the Islamists in Djibouti.

Last month
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the Islamists represented a "clear
threat" to his country which he said was prepared for conflict following
repeated Islamist calls for a holy war.

The UIC,
which is backed by Ethiopia’s rival, Eritrea, and now controls much of southern
Somalia, has denied claims by Ethiopia and the weak Somali transitional government
that it has links to al-Qaeda.

The talks
come as Somalia’s interim government, formed two years ago, edges closer to
securing regional and international approval for the deployment of foreign
peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

When he
came to power, interim President Abdullahi Yousef asked for foreign troops
to bolster his position.

A regional
grouping of African states has now backed that proposal in principle, with
the African Union also offering support. The idea is now being considered
by the UN Security Council.

strongly opposes any foreign presence on Somali soil, as do several members
of Igad, including Sudan.

Our correspondent
says the talks in Djibouti could be the last opportunity to head off all-out
conflict in the Horn of Africa.


30 Nov 2006: Ethiopia’s parliament authorises all legal and necessary steps
against any invasion by the UIC
27 Nov 2006: UIC accuse Ethiopian forces of shelling Bandiradley
Oct 2006: Ethiopian’s PM says Ethiopia is "technically at war" with
the UIC
Sept 2006: Somalia’s president survives an assassination attempt
July 2006: Ethiopian troops cross into Somalia
June 2006: UIC takes control of Mogadishu
1996: Ethiopian forces defeat Islamist fighters in Somali town of Luuq
1964 and 1977: Wars fought over Ethiopia’s Ogaden region

from BBC NEWS: