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Uganda fails to convince Eritrea to stop supporting Somali Islamists

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April 2, 2007 (KAMPALA) — The Ugandan president failed to convince Eritrean president to stop his support to the Somali Islamic Courts and to back the African peacekeeping mission protecting the Somali government.

President Yoweri Museveni returned from Eritrea yesterday without achieving his objective to persuade his Eritrean counterpart Isaias Aferworki to drop backing for the Somali Islamists.

Eritrea requested that African leaders recognise the Islamic Courts Union as the legitimate government in Somalia instead of supporting the Ethiopian backed the Transitional Federal Government.

Eritrea considers the AU force – mainly Ugandan – is protecting the interests of the Ethiopian government. Also, it denied arming the Somali Islamists.

Museveni on his way back from Asia spent a night in the Red Sea port city of Massawa in Eritrea to discuss the worsening situation in Somalia, which saw the first Ugandan peacekeeper killed on Sunday.

President Museveni on Sunday 1 April arrived to the Eritrean port city of Massawa in an unexpected visit to discuss the worsening situation in Somalia after the killing of the first Ugandan peacekeepers yesterday.

Fierce fighting in Somalia’s battle-scarred capital between Ethiopian-backed government forces and Islamic insurgents has left nearly 400 people dead, most of them civilians, a local rights group said Monday.

Some 565 people have also been wounded during four days of heavy fighting that saw Ethiopian troops with tanks and attack helicopters launch an offensive to crush insurgents linked to an Islamic group driven from power in December.

The casualty figures were the first to be released after the worst fighting seen in Mogadishu for more than 15 years and the death toll could be higher, Sudan Ali Ahmed, chairman of the decade-old Elman Human Rights Organization, The Associated Press reported.

They were calculated from hospital figures, local resident groups and burials but do not include Ethiopian soldiers who may have been killed, he said.

(ST)

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