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Somali Islamists Condemn Ethiopia
Mogadishu, Somaliland, June 29, 2006 – One of the leaders of the Islamist group that controls much of southern Somalia has accused Ethiopia of "occupying" Somali territory.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys called for talks on Ethiopia's Ogaden region, inhabited by ethnic Somalis.
His accusation comes after Ethiopia tightened security along the Somali border, following the advance of the Supreme Islamic Courts' Council.
Mr. Aweys fought in the two countries' war for the region in the 1970s.
Ethiopia also played a key role in defeating his Islamist militia al-Itihaad al-Islamiya in the 1990s.
Mr. Aweys is on a US list of people allegedly linked to terrorist groups and both the United States and Ethiopia have been alarmed by the Islamic courts capture of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and other towns.
He denies the charges but the US has said it will not deal with him.
The US House of Representatives is due to discuss what it calls "The Expanding Crisis in the Horn of Africa" later on Thursday.
Mr. Aweys' latest comments are likely to further heighten tensions.
"Ethiopia mistreats the Somalis under their administration. The land was given to them by colonialists and we will seek justice to resolve the crisis that is dividing the two countries," Mr. Aweys told the AFP news agency.
"We are ready to negotiate," he said.
The Islamists have accused Ethiopia of sending troops into Somalia in support of the weak interim government, based in Baidoa, 200km from Mogadishu.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi denies these accusations that Ethiopia had sent troops into Somalia.
"We have beefed up our defenses all along the border to prevent any threat to our security that might emanate from the resurgent Jihadists in Mogadishu," he said.
Ethiopia helped Somalia's now interim president, Abdillahi Yusuf, defeat al-Itihaad in the 1990s.
Last week, the Islamic courts and the largely toothless interim government agreed not to fight each other.
The recent advances of the Islamists have renewed fears of major conflict in Somalia, which has not had an effective national government for 15 years.
Meanwhile, the African Union is to ask the United Nations Security Council to partially lift its arms embargo on Somalia to allow for an African peacekeeping mission to go there.
"Whilst we support the arms embargo, the peace support mission should not be affected by this embargo," South Africa's foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said after a meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council.
"The transitional government must be able to build its institutions like the police and so on," she said.
Somalia's president is in favor of the deployment of peacekeepers, but the Islamists strongly oppose the move.