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US Urges End to Outside Interference in Somalia

The United States Wednesday urged Somalia's neighbors to cease activities that could further destabilize the country, and urged warring parties inside the country to recommit to dialogue. The appeal followed a U.N. report accusing at least 10 countries of aiding combatants in Somalia in violation of an arms embargo.

The United States is appealing for internal dialogue, and an end to outside inference in Somalia, following a U.N. report that warfare in the Horn of Africa country is being fueled by large-scale outside aid.

The report, by U.N. experts monitoring violations of the 1992 arms embargo on Somalia, said the country's Islamist militias are getting support from Eritrea, Iran, Syria, Djbouti, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt, as well as a non-state player, Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

The authors said at least three countries, Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen, have provided arms or soldiers to bolster the country's increasingly beleaguered interim government based in Baidoa.

At a news briefing, acting State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos expressed alarm over rising violence in Somalia while urging the interim government and its militia adversaries, the Council of Islamic Courts, to return to peaceful dialogue.

"We're extremely concerned by the escalation of tensions inside Somalia, including the buildup of forces aligned with the Council of Islamic Courts around the interim capital of Baidoa and recent militia clashes in northeastern Somalia," he said. "The Council of Islamic Courts should immediately cease any further military expansion, and recommit to the principles of the June 22 agreement in Khartoum, in which they agreed to cease any further hostile action."

In the June 22 agreement in the Sudanese capital, the two sides in the Somali conflict agreed to recognize each other and end hostilities.

But the negotiating process has since foundered, amid battlefield gains by the Islamic Courts movement, which now controls much of the country, including the capital, Mogadishu.

Spokesman Gallegos appealed to both sides to renew their commitment to peace and dialogue, and said neither should use the actions of external actors as an excuse to avoid further dialogue.

He urged Somalia's neighbors to avoid actions that might further destabilize the situation, citing in particular Eritrea, which has emerged as a principle backer of the Islamic Courts.

Ethiopia has reportedly sent troops to help the interim government, and the U.N. report warns that the Somali conflict could spread and reignite war between Ethiopia and longtime adversary Eritrea.

The United States has had no official presence in Somalia since 1994, when it ended a famine relief operation after a clash between U.S. troops and followers of a local warlord that killed 18 American servicemen.

In June, the United States convened a diplomatic contact group on the Somalia conflict that included key European and African countries.

Spokesman Gallegos said decisions on further diplomacy would await consultations on the new report with other members of the U.N. sanctions committee on Somalia in New York.