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Somali, Kenyan Presidents Meet


Somalia's interim president is in Kenya for talks with President Mwai Kibaki and other top security officials. Meanwhile, Kenyan authorities have arrested and detained at least eight people at a border crossing, saying they could be fighters and financiers of the Islamic Courts Union attempting to flee Somalia into Kenya. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, and top Kenyan security officials gathered in the port city of Mombasa to discuss the security situation in volatile Somalia and how to prevent the conflict from spilling over into Kenya.

Ethiopian-backed Somali government troops are fighting the Islamic Courts Union for control of Somalia.

Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs Esmael Mohamud Hurreh tells VOA high on the agenda will be Somalia's bilateral relations with Kenya and an appeal by President Yusuf to help a Somalia Hurreh says is now free of the Islamic Courts Union.

"People talk about Somalia, but when it comes to delivering assistance, it is a lot of talk and no help," he said. "This time we want the international community, instead of just talking, to do something and assist the transitional federal government to bring about law and order, stability, peace, in the country."

Meanwhile, Kenyan authorities hold at least eight people, apprehended at Liboi on the Kenyan-Somali border, who are suspected to be fighters and financiers of the Islamic Courts Union. According to media reports, the suspects hold Eritrean, Canadian, and other passports.

The director of operations of Kenya's police, David Kimaiyo, tells VOA it is unclear whether or not the suspects have been involved in the recent fighting, and that authorities are investigating the situation.

The Somali government appealed Monday to Kenya to close its border with Somalia, saying that many of the Islamic Courts Union's fighters and officials are fleeing into Kenya.

Police Operations Director Kimaiyo tells VOA that as far as he knows, this has not yet happened at the top leadership level.

"The real Islamists themselves, the leaders, we have not actually caught any of them so far," he said. "But you never know, with the group that are coming in, they may be some of the sympathizers and so on."

Kimaiyo says it is difficult to distinguish Islamist fighters and officials from refugees escaping the fighting, and says the authorities are trying to identify people crossing the border as best as they can.

Somali foreign minister Hurreh tells VOA he met Tuesday with Kenyan Minister of Foreign Affairs Raphael Tuju and discussed how the two governments could carry out screening procedures at the border.

"We want to make sure that these Islamist terrorists do not blend in with the rest of the people and try to do damage to Kenya also as they tried to do damage to Somalia," he said.

The latest round of fighting was sparked two weeks ago by the passing of a deadline the Islamists set to order Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia or face war.

Until recently, Ethiopian authorities denied the existence of combat troops in Somalia, saying only that Ethiopian soldiers were helping train Somali-government troops.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says Ethiopian troops will remain in Somalia for another few weeks.

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