Ethiopian foreign minister arrives in Somalia to mediate between leaders |

Ethiopian foreign minister arrives in Somalia to mediate between leaders

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Ethiopia’s foreign minister arrived in Somalia Saturday to mediate disagreements among the leaders of the nation’s U.N.-backed transitional government, which is under pressure from an Islamic militia that the United States accuses of harboring terrorists.Seyoum Mesfin became the first Ethiopian official to visit Somalia in many years. The neighboring countries fought a war from 1977 to 1978 and view each other as enemies, but Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf is a longtime ally of Ethiopia.The Ethiopian foreign minister and Yusuf met early Saturday in Baidoa, and Mesfin was scheduled to meet with Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi before traveling to Kenya for talks with officials.”His trip to Baidoa is aimed at solving the differences between the government top leaders,” said Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari.Somalia’s transitional government was formed two years ago with the support of the United Nations to help the Horn of Africa country emerge from 16 years of anarchy and violence. The government has a five-year term.Somalia has not had an effective central government since warlords toppled longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned against each other, plunging the country into anarchy.Islamic militants seized the capital and much of southern Somalia in recent months but the transitional government could only watch. The Islamists have been imposing strict religious courts, raising fears of an emerging Taliban-style regime.The United States accuses the group of harboring al-Qaida members responsible for deadly bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.Disagreements inside the transitional government have led 40 Cabinet and junior ministers to resign in the past nine days. The ministers leaving Gedi’s government all have cited his lukewarm support for Arab League-sponsored talks with the Islamic militants, which were due to have resumed in Khartoum, Sudan, on Tuesday.Gedi said that the talks had been postponed until Aug. 17, but Yusuf said the government was sending a team to Sudan on Wednesday.The Islamic militants known as the Supreme Council of the Islamic Courts say they refuse to participate as long as Ethiopian troops remain in the country.According to witnesses, troops from Ethiopia entered Somalia late last month to support the transitional government. Ethiopia and Somalia have denied that the troops entered the country.

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