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Islamic Courts Leader Reaches Out to Former Somali Ministers

The leader of Somalia's Islamic Courts Council is inviting ministers who resigned from the transitional government to join his cause.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys extended the invitation as several more ministers resigned Wednesday, bringing the total over the past week up to 34.

Speaking to local media, Aweys called on everyone in the government to step aside, assuring them that Islamists welcome their help in bringing peace to Somalia.

Most of the departing ministers have said they oppose the presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali soil, or that they want the government to make peace with the increasingly powerful Islamists.

Islamists who control much of southern Somalia have refused to hold peace talks with the government until Ethiopian troops in the government base of Baidoa depart.

Interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi barely survived a no-confidence motion in parliament Sunday.

Ethiopia sent the troops last month when Islamist militias moved to within 40 kilometers of Baidoa.

Meanwhile, a United Nations team arrived in Mogadishu Wednesday to assess the city's humanitarian needs. Residents of the Somali capital have suffered through months of fighting as Islamic militias seized control of the city from local warlords.

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