prime minister has pledged to withdraw his troops from Somalia once peace
takes hold in the capital.
Meles Zenawi, who made a surprise visit to Mogadishu, also held talks
with influential clan elders whose militia are opposed to Ethiopian troops
The presence of thousands of Ethiopian troops in Somalia is unpopular
with many Mogadishu residents.
Ethiopian and government troops have often been the target of bombings,
since the defeat of the Islamists.
This was Mr Meles first visit to Somalia since Ethiopian troops helped
to oust the Islamists from Mogadishu six months ago.
Somali government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon said that Mr Meles also held
talks with the president and prime minister of the transitional government.
Professor David Shinn, a former American ambassador to Ethiopia and Somalia,
says Mr Meles visit is aimed at showing support to his troops.
"There has been a lot of concern among the troops that things are
not going well and this is a way to show that he is sharing their concerns,"
Prof Shinn told the BBC.
The former envoy who now lectures at George Washington University says
that although the relationship between Ethiopia and residents in Somalia
has been hostile, the troops are playing an important role in keeping
the government intact.
"If Ethiopians withdraw now, the interim government will be under
so much pressure and may not remain there," he said.
the weekend, at least six people died in an attack on the house of the
Somali prime minister.
Three more were killed after Ethiopian and government troops opened
fire after grenades were thrown at them.
Last month, Ethiopia re-opened its embassy in Mogadishu after a break
of 30 years.
Ethiopia and Somalia have fought two bitter wars in the past – the last
Somali Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and former Deputy Prime Minister
Hussein Aideed have formed an alliance opposed to Ethiopia.
The alliance, which is based in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, was launched
after recent fighting in Mogadishu that killed some 1,600 people.
Ethiopia and the US accuse Eritrea of supporting insurgents opposed to
the transitional government in Mogadishu – a claim Eritrea denies.
Mr Meles says he wants to withdraw his troops from Somalia but only
after they are replaced by African Union peacekeepers.
Some 1,600 Ugandan troops have been sent as the vanguard of the proposed