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US President Concerned About Somalia


President Bush says he is keeping a close watch on developments in Somalia, where Islamic fighters are on the move after taking control of the capital city, Mogadishu.

The president says the situation in Somalia provides plenty of reason for concern.

"Obviously, when there's instability anywhere in the world, we're concerned," said President Bush. "There is instability in Somalia."

Speaking to reporters during a tour of the U.S. border with Mexico, Mr. Bush said this instability could allow al-Qaida terrorists to move in and use Somalia as a base of operations.

"The first concern, of course, would be to make sure Somalia does not become an al-Qaida safe haven - that it doesn't become a place from which terrorists can plot and plan," he said.

The president says he has discussed the problem with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and indicated they would hold further talks on the matter upon his return to Washington Wednesday afternoon.

"So we are watching very carefully the developments there and we will strategize more when I get back to Washington as to how best to respond to the latest incident there in Somalia," noted George W. Bush.

Islamic fighters in Somalia are now moving north after taking control of Mogadishu on Monday. Their next target is Jowhar, a city dominated by a coalition of warlords that fought the Islamists for months in the capital.

The Islamic militias have vowed to turn Somalia into a religious state. But the coalition of warlords insists the battle is not over in Mogadishu, and they will move to regain lost territory.

The Bush administration has refused to confirm or deny accusations that it has backed the warlords. When asked about the matter again on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said only that the United States has a strong interest in fighting foreign terrorists in the Horn of Africa.

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