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Somalia's Shire Defies Peacekeeper Plan
The summons by defense minister and warlord Colonel Abdikadir Adan Shire, also known as Barre Hiraale, underscored rifts that have paralyzed an interim government attempting to gain control of lawless Somalia.
Efforts to stamp its authority on the country has led the government to embrace rival plans over the past two days.
One was a deal in principle to join its military with that of its main rival - a powerful Islamist group that has eclipsed the government's bid for authority - and the other was a hotly disputed and long-delayed plan to bring in foreign peacekeepers.
"The former Somali military officers should prepare to defend the country and do the work that foreign troops who are supposed to be brought would do," Barre Hiraale told Reuters from his stronghold in the southern port of Kismayo.
Threatened by the well-armed and ideologically motivated Islamist movement that seized Mogadishu and strategic areas near it in June, the government agreed in principle on Monday to join its military with theirs if they reach a political settlement.
But on Tuesday, east African states meeting in Nairobi under the regional IGAD body that shepherded Somalia's peace process, urged rapid funding and deployment of the peacekeepers - the presence of which the Islamists oppose vehemently.
Government spokesperson Abdirahman Dinari said the administration backed the joint military deal in principle but warned that if the IGAD plan failed "then Somalia will succumb to unrest and anarchy that will affect the Horn of Africa".
The fractious government rarely speaks with one voice, and fighting over President Abdillahi Yusuf's October 2004 bid to bring in peacekeepers has kept it from making any substantial progress in nearly two years of existence.
But the joint military deal, brokered by the Arab League at talks in Khartoum, depends on a political agreement to share power, which diplomats say is a tough task given the Islamists want a state ruled by sharia law and the government is secular.
"The troops merger agreement reached is important and can change a lot but I fear it's impossible to implement because the (Islamists) and government need to agree on the sticky issues they had disagreed upon initially" Barre Hiraale said.
The Islamists are fiercely opposed to foreign troops - and particularly Ethiopians - in Somalia, which has put it at odds with a Somali government without the money to field the serious army it needs to tame a country awash in gunmen.
"(Government) troops work closely with our enemy Ethiopia. If they don't stop that I don't think we will ever trust them," an Islamist militiaman who declined to be identified said.
Though Addis Ababa denies it, witnesses say Ethiopian troops are already in Somalia protecting the government at its base in outlying Baidoa. Ethiopia has promised to crush any Islamist attack.
In Islamist-held Mogadishu, a former senior general who said he was acting on Barre Hiraale's orders summoned about 300 former officers from the army of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre before his 1991 ouster plunged the country into anarchy.
"All the troops should be ready and prepare to defend the country against Ethiopian troops who are in our country. We support him and will heed his call," General Mohamed Adan Galal said.