Meles downplays militants’ threat to Somali govt

June 25th, 2009 | by addis portal |

ADDIS ABABA, Thursday

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi downplayed the threat posed by insurgents against Somalia government, saying that he believed President Sheikh Sharif’s government would not be overthrown easily.
Prime Minister Meles said at a press conference last night in Addis Ababa that he has no plans of sending troops to neighbouring Somalia despite the escalating violence.
However, he said Ethiopia is ready to support Somalia government at any point including military aid.

Meles acknowledges the increasing threat of Al Shaabab and other insurgent groups, but believes they pose no risk in toppling Sheikh Sharif’s administration.
Meles said the urgent call made from Somali parliament last week was a bit exaggerated and Ethiopia was following the situation closely.

“Our reading of the situation in Somalia is slightly different from the one of the Speaker of the parliament that if there is no foreign military intervention within 24 hours, the Somali government will collapse” Meles added.
“We have no plan to deploy our troops in Somalia for a number of reasons we believe the situation could be stabilised without deployment of Ethiopian troops,” he said.
Rather than deploying foreign troops, Meles recommended beefing up of African Union AMISOM peacekeepers, which would be best way to help the Somali transitional government.
Meles however hinted he may change his position any time soon and if he found any security and national interest threat from Somali insurgents, Ethiopia would return to Somalia.
“We would revisit our position” he said.
Ethiopia awaits IGAD and African Union’s consultation on Somalia to take a final stand. Earlier, Ethiopian authorities said the country could send troops if the mission is mandated by the international community.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia in support of the Somalia transitional government and successfully removed Islamic insurgents.
Ethiopia withdrew from Somalia at the beginning of this year after a two-year mission of guarding an internationally recognised Somalia government.

Meles accused his former friend and President of neighbouring Eritrea, Isayas Afeworki’s ill-intention in destabilising Somalia while mainly targeting Ethiopia.

According to Meles, Isayas Afeworki aims to seek international attention and destabilise Ethiopia at any cost.

Meles openly slammed the Eritrean President saying he is suffering from “attention deficiency” and obsession with CIA and the United States.

Ethiopia and Eritrea have been bitter enemies since the 1998 border dispute that was followed by a bloody war which cost 85,000 lives in days of battle.
African Union recently proposed sanctions and punishment against Eritrea for its involvement in Somalia in support of Islamic insurgents.

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