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Rumsfeld Thanks Horn of Africa Leaders for Support in War on Terrorism

U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, held talks in Addis Ababa late Tuesday with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Alex Belida is traveling with Mr. Rumsfeld.

Just as during his visit earlier in the day in Eritrea, Mr. Rumsfeld insisted his stop in Ethiopia was intended to convey U.S. support for the country's cooperation in the global war on terrorism, not to bargain for any specific military or other assistance.

Speaking to reporters with Prime Minister Meles by his side, Mr. Rumsfeld said there was no question but that terrorists, including members of al-Qaida were in the Horn of Africa region, many having fled the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan.

Mr. Meles concurred in that assessment, describing the terrorist problem in the Horn and East Africa as a serious one and expressing fear of more attacks like the recent bombing in Mombasa in neighboring Kenya.

But the Ethiopian leader said his country would not be what he termed half-hearted in fighting terrorism. He pledged to do whatever is necessary to combat the problem.

For his part, Mr. Rumsfeld said that while it will take time and effort to root out and destroy terrorist networks, he is confident that with the help of countries like Ethiopia, the effort will ultimately be successful.

Ethiopia is sharing intelligence with the United States on terrorist activities in the Horn region. Prime Minister Meles suggested there would be greater and more effective intelligence cooperation in the future, but he gave no details.

Earlier Tuesday, during a stopover in Asmara for talks with Eritrean leaders, Mr. Rumsfeld denied the purpose of his visit was to seek any special assistance but merely to underscore the importance the United States attaches to developing closer cooperation with African countries.

On Wednesday, Mr. Rumsfeld will complete his first-ever tour of the Horn by going to the tiny nation of Djibouti, the center of most U.S. anti-terrorist activity in the region.

While Pentagon officials have said most of that activity is targeted against terrorists in Yemen, there are multi-national maritime patrols intended to prevent terrorists or weapons from crossing from the Middle East into Africa, especially to Somalia. That ungoverned country is believed to have become a shelter for some al-Qaida who fled Afghanistan. Somalia is the home of a radical Islamic group called al-Ittihaad al-Islamiya which U.S. officials say has been linked to al-Qaida.