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Somali govt dismisses ‘terrorist’ alliance

Somalia’s government on Thursday said a new opposition movement vowing war on Ethiopian troops in the Horn of Africa nation was a ”terrorist alliance” posing no real threat.

Somali opposition figures forged the Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia in the Eritrean capital of Asmara on Wednesday in a move analysts said may boost Islamist-led insurgents fighting the interim government and its Ethiopian military allies.

But a spokesperson for Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told Reuters the new group would have no influence.

”We don’t see them as a threat since they cannot add to or reduce the explosions already taking place in Mogadishu,” Musse Kulow said. ”Those behind the violence have distanced themselves from the Asmara alliance,” he added, without elaborating.

The new group was created after a week of talks in the Eritrean capital by about 400 delegates ranging from Islamist leaders to former Somali government officials.

A spokesperson in Asmara said it would push for the expulsion of Ethiopian troops through military and diplomatic means.

In Mogadishu, Kulow said the interim government welcomed the formation of independent political parties.

”But we will never accept a terrorist alliance that wants to use violence to gain any progress,” he said.

Bone of contention

The formation of the new movement provides yet another bone of contention between long-time foes Ethiopia and Eritrea, analysts say, and is likely to push back any prospect of desperately needed reconciliation in Somali politics.

”It certainly is not a step that will encourage a solution,” David Shinn, a former United States envoy in the region, told Reuters.

”The whole effort should be based on power-sharing between the … government and moderate elements in the opposition.”

There was no immediate comment from Ethiopia, which sent thousands of troops over the border last year to help Somalia’s government rout an Islamist movement from Mogadishu.

Mana Hassan Mukhtar, a 30-year-old Mogadishu worker, said all she cared about now was security. ”If the Asmara alliance can bring peace and harmony in Somalia then I support it,” she said.

But Mukhtar Nur Abdulle, a 65-year-old father of five, said he feared his country’s woes were set to deepen.

”What is going on is a political war that will only cause more bloodshed in Somalia,” he said. ”I condemn the government and the opposition for fighting for power by killing civilians.”

With 191 members of a central committee, the opposition alliance includes well-known figures like Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed — considered a moderate in the Islamic Courts movement — and former deputy prime minister Hussein Aideed.

Hard-line cleric Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, another senior courts leader on United Nations and US lists of terrorism suspects, surfaced at the Asmara meeting after being in hiding for most of 2007. It was not clear what position, if any, he would take. — Reuters

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