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Ethiopian PM Pays Surprise Visit to Somalia


Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has made a surprise visit to Somalia, where his troops are fighting insurgents in support of the Somali interim government.

Mr. Meles arrived in the capital, Mogadishu, under tight security Tuesday. He met first with Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf before holding separate talks with Mogadishu residents and clan elders.

A Somali government spokesman, Abdi Haji Gobdon, says Mr. Meles said that Ethiopia would withdraw its troops once peace in Somalia is restored. The prime minister left Mogadishu later in the day.

Somali authorities have struggled to control violence throughout the country. On Sunday, Mr. Gedi escaped a suicide bomb attack at his Mogadishu home that killed seven other people.

A Somali official, Ali Mahdi Mohammed, said Tuesday that the government still plans to hold a national reconcilation conference in Mogadishu on June 14th despite the unrest.

Today, Somali and Ethiopian troops launched a security operation in the city, conducting house-to-house searches for weapons.

Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia last year after an Islamist movement seized control of numerous Somali cities and threatened to topple the interim government.

The troops later helped the government oust the Islamists and battle the insurgency. The battles in the capital, which peaked in March and April, killed hundreds of people and prompted tens of thousands of others to flee.

Last month, Ethiopia reopened its embassy in Somalia for the first time since the countries fought a war 30 years ago. Mr. Meles visited the embassy today.

Ethiopia has said repeatedly that it plans to withdraw its troops, but the soldiers continue to patrol the capital, coming under frequent attack by gunmen and suicide bombers.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.

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