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TFG To Work With Eritrean Rebel Group
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NAIROBI , Kenya, Aug 20, 2006 – Somalia's weak, U.N.-backed transitional government will work with an Eritrean rebel group because it claims the Eritrean government is supporting Islamic groups who control most of southern Somalia, officials said.

Officials of Somalia's transitional government said they met with those of the Eritrean Liberation Front in Geneva Friday. They said in a joint statement e-mailed to The Associated Press Saturday that there would be other meetings of higher level representatives.

The statement did not elaborate how the two would work together, only saying they "agreed that coordination between the democratic forces in the different countries of the Horn (has) become now an urgent obligation."

This latest development opens up a new dimension in Somalia's 16-year political crisis, drawing Eritrea into a conflict that has already seen its archenemy, Ethiopia, take the side of the transitional government.

In the past, Eritrea has denied supporting Somalia's Islamic courts.

Eritrea is giving Somalia's Islamic courts group military and intelligence support but was not doing it because it supported the group's ideals, said Yusuf Ismail of the Somali transitional government and Yohannes Zeremariam of the Eritrean Liberation Front in the statement.

Eritrea , "is playing the dangerous game of becoming a client government of forces intending to destabilize the region," they said, without elaborating.

Ismail is the Somali transitional government's special envoy to Belgium and the European Union and Yohannes is foreign secretary of the Sudan-based Eritrean Liberation Front.

The Eritrean rebel group is one of several opposing Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki whose government has clamped down on opposition within the ruling party and backtracked on promises to turn Eritrea into a multiparty democracy.

A committee monitoring a 1992 U.N. arms embargo on Somalia said in its May report that Eritrea supplies weapons to al-Itihaad al-Islaami, a conservative Somali group that operates as a militia supporting the Islamic courts.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, pulling the country into anarchy.

In June, Islamic militiamen took over the capital and then seized control of much of southern Somalia. Yusuf's government has been unable to assert its authority beyond the southern Somalia town of Baidoa.

Source: AP

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