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Somalian President Calls for African Peacekeeping Forces

Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf has called for the immediate deployment of African peacekeepers to his war-torn nation.

Mr. Yusuf made his plea Friday in the Kenyan capital Nairobi during a meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia. The group includes diplomats from the United States, Europe and Africa.

The meeting comes a week after Somali government troops and their Ethiopian allies pushed the rival Islamists from the last of their strongholds.

Mr. Yusuf said this is a rare opportunity to bring order to Somalia. The country has not had an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Mr. Yusuf called on the international community to provide financial, material and technical assistance to his government.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Washington will send more than $16 million in food and other humanitarian aid to Mogadishu.

EarlierFriday, a message attributed to Al Qaida's number two leader appeared on an Internet site frequently used by Islamic militant groups. A man believed to be Ayman al-Zawahri urges the Somali militants to employ guerrilla tactics used in Iraq and Afghanistan to drive the Ethiopian troops out of Somalia. The message refers to Somalia as sacred Muslim land.

Uganda is offering to send up to $1,000 to Somalia, as long as there is a clear mission and an exit strategy. But Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye tells VOA that Somalis do not want foreign troops in their country.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning to Americans traveling along the eastern African coast, especially in Somalia. The warning cites the possibility of terrorist attacks.

U.S. warships are patrolling the waters off the Somalian coast to prevent Islamist leaders and fighters from escaping by sea.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.