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Kenya to Begin Shuttle Diplomacy Between Rivals Eritrea and Ethiopia

Kenya's Foreign Ministry says it is preparing an intense diplomatic shuttle to bring an end to the crisis between Horn of Africa rivals Eritrea and Ethiopia over Somalia. VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from Nairobi.

Kenya's Deputy Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula says ministry officials are working hard to lay the groundwork for Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju to begin the shuttle in the next two weeks.

"It is a process that involves wide-ranging consultations between several capitals," he said. "The details of how we are going to go about it are being worked out."

Foreign Minister Tuju's first stop is likely to be Eritrea, whose views on stabilizing war-torn Somalia are at odds with the six other members of East Africa's Inter-governmental Authority on Development.

The other members of the group, known as IGAD, are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda.

During a one-day meeting of IGAD ministers last Friday in Nairobi, Eritrea strongly opposed a proposal to urge the African Union to send more peacekeepers to Somalia. Eritrea also demanded the immediate withdrawal of tens of thousands of Ethiopian troops, who have been in Somalia since they led the country's transitional government forces to victory over Somali Islamists four months ago.

Eritrea, which is hostile to neighboring Ethiopia after their unresolved border war nearly a decade ago, calls Ethiopian troops an invading force and has condemned what it calls Ethiopian and U.S. interference in Somalia.

Somalia's Ethiopian-backed transitional government accuses Eritrea of fighting a proxy war against Addis Ababa by supplying weapons to hard-line Islamist fighters and Hawiye clan militiamen waging a violent anti-government insurgency in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda argue that the African Union must send additional peacekeepers to Somalia so Ethiopian troops can withdraw without creating a security vacuum.

At the IGAD meeting, Eritrea's denial that it is fueling the crisis in Somalia triggered angry exchanges between Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Somali ministers.

Kenya's deputy foreign minister says Kenya, which borders Somalia, is taking the diplomatic lead out of fear that delays in resolving the dispute could harm his country.

"Kenya, having suffered for a long time the effects of conflict in Somalia, is more aware than anyone else in this world that peace in Somalia means peace for Kenya," he said. "And we will not let any issue stand in the way of resolving the Somali conflict."

Kenya played a key role, more than two years ago, in forming Somalia's transitional government, the 14th attempt at forming a government since the country descended into clan warfare in 1991.