18/12/06 (B374) BBC : Menaces de Guerre en Somalie (En anglais – Info lectrice)

of attack recede in Somalia

Both sides in Somalia are playing down the significance of a deadline given
by Islamists for a « massive attack ».

Witnesses say forces of the interim government have been patrolling the outskirts
of the city of Baidoa, their stronghold, alongside Ethiopian forces.

But the
Islamic Courts Union, which controls much of the south, backtracked on an
ultimatum for Ethiopians troops to leave Somalia by the end of Monday.

The comments
contrast sharply with threats of a holy war made last week.

Courts Union spokesman Abdi-Rahiin Ali Mudey said the Islamists would not
attack the Ethiopians or Baidoa.

The government
has also said talks could resume if the Islamists stopped making threats.

Last week,
President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed ruled out any further talks.


Mr Mudey
said the Islamists were using the deadline to give the Ethiopians a chance
to start negotiations with them, but that Islamist forces would defend themselves
if attacked.

« Ethiopia
has recently asked us to start talks with them so the deadline was basically
meant to tell the Ethiopians to withdraw from Somalia, then talks they offered
would be possible, » he said.

Minister Ali Ahmed Jama said the interim government had been counting the
days, waiting for « the last minute of the deadline ».

« We
will not be the first one to attack, but will not stand by and watch if we
are attacked, » he said.

leaders deny accusations of al-Qaeda links. On Sunday, the Union of Islamic
Courts said nearly 200 government troops had defected to their side. The government
denied the allegations.

clashes have broken out between the two rivals, but neither side has launched
a large offensive.

On Saturday
Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said the movement was prepared
for « dialogue » with Ethiopia.

In Yemen,
he announced a deal with the speaker of the Somali parliament to resume talks
after they collapsed last month.

Story from BBC NEWS