Eritrea lashes out again at US over Somalia

November 1st, 2006 Print Print Email Email

NAIROBI Nov 1(AFP) — Eritrea on Tuesday renewed its verbal assault on the United States for accusing it of opening a second front in its border dispute with arch-foe Ethiopia in Somalia.A day after unleashing a blistering barrage of criticism at Ethiopia and the United States for allegedly opposing Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement against the country’s weak transitional government, Asmara repeated the charge.

In a statement posted on an official website, the Eritrean foreign ministry decried a US warning for Eritrea and Ethiopia not to use Somalia as a proxy battleground.

“The war that … still continues in Somalia is between the Somali people and the US administration under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’ through its mercenary agent, the [Ethiopian] regime, and warlords,” it said.

“The US administration’s continued resort to misleading statements … obviously raises the question: who is the Bush administration trying to deceive?” the ministry asked in the brief statement.

Somalia’s Islamists, some of whom the United States accuses of having ties to Al Qaeda, seized Mogadishu from US-backed warlords in June and now controls most of southern and central Somalia, where it enforces strict Sharia law.

US ally Ethiopia and Eritrea, which fought a bloody and unresolved 1998-2000 border war, are feared to be using Somalia as another venue for their dispute, in which Asmara accuses Addis Ababa of violating a peace deal.

Mainly Christian Ethiopia, which backs the Somali government, denies reports it has sent thousands of troops to Somalia to support the administration but acknowledges sending military advisers to protect it from “jihadists.”

Meanwhile, Eritrea is accused by UN monitors of violating a 1992 arms embargo on Somalia by supplying weapons to the Islamists but has denied charges it has some 2,000 troops on Somali territory.

On Monday, amid continuing unsuccessful efforts to bring the Islamists and the Somali transitional government to the table at peace talks in Khartoum, Washington warned Ethiopia and Eritrea not to take their dispute to Somalia.

“We would hope that states not try to use Somalia as a proxy for any of their disputes,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. “It would be rather unfortunate for Somalia, as well as other countries in the region.”

Shortly before he spoke, the Eritrean foreign ministry issued a statement accusing Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of being a US stooge in a war against the Islamists and warned he was “playing with fire.”

Soaring tensions between Somalia’s government and the Islamist have sparked fears of an all-out war that could engulf the Horn of Africa region in conflict.

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