From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 05:37:02 EDT
African Union calls for Eritrea sanctions
Sat May 23, 2009 5:29am GMT
* AU says Eritrea backing rebels in Somalia
* Calls for sanctions, no-fly zone, sea blockade
* Eritrea denies accusations
By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA, May 23 (Reuters) - The African Union called on the United
Nations late on Friday to impose immediate sanctions on Eritrea for
supporting Islamist insurgents attempting to overthrow Somalia's government.
But Eritrean Ambassador Araya Desta said in a letter to the U.N. Security
Council: "I wish to put on record my government's strong opposition to, and
categorical rejection of, the unsubstantiated accusations levelled against
Fighting in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Friday killed at least 45 people,
the highest daily death toll in more than two weeks of intense battles,
after government forces launched a dawn offensive on the Islamist militants.
"(The U.N. Security Council should) impose sanctions against all those
foreign actors, both within and outside the region, especially Eritrea,
providing support to the armed groups," the 53-member African Union (AU)
said in a statement.
The statement echoed demands made on Thursday by the east African regional
bloc, the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD is made
up of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
Eritrea suspended its membership of IGAD in 2007.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's U.N.-backed administration is the 15th
attempt in 18 years to set up central rule in Somalia. Neighbouring states
and Western security forces fear the nation could become a haven for al
Qaeda-linked militants unless the hardline Islamists are defeated.
Somalia's transitional government has said the insurgents had been joined by
foreign fighters and were receiving arms from Eritrea.
The AU reiterated IGAD's request that the United Nations enforce a no-fly
zone on Somalia and block its sea ports to prevent foreign fighters and arms
"(We want) the imposition of a no-fly zone and blockade of sea ports to
prevent the entry of foreign elements into Somalia, as well as flights and
shipments carrying weapons and ammunitions to armed groups inside Somalia,"
the statement said.
In an interview with Reuters on Friday, influential insurgent leader Sheikh
Hassan Dahir Aweys said Eritrea supported the rebel struggle. He said a few
Arab fighters had joined the rebels in the name of Islam. [ID:nLM978588]
Aweys returned to Somalia in April from exile in Eritrea. (Editing by David
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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