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Ethiopian PM Says Troops May Leave Somalia Within a Few Weeks

Ethiopia's prime minister says his country's troops may leave Somalia within a few weeks.

Meles Zenawi spoke a day after Ethiopian and Somali government forces drove the rival Islamist movement from its last stronghold in Somalia.

The Ethiopian leader said his troops would help Somalia's transitional government stabilize the country. But he urged the international community to send peacekeepers to Somalia quickly.

Mr. Meles' remarks were somewhat at odds with those of Somalia's interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, who said today that the Ethiopians might stay for months, but not more.

Meanwhile, Somalis appear to be ignoring a government call for people to surrender their weapons. Witnesses in the capital, Mogadishu, say not a single gun has been turned in at the designated collection points today.

The government is attempting to assert control in the capital following six months of Islamist rule.

The interim government had little power outside its base of Baidoa until the past week, when a joint Ethiopian and government offensive swept the Islamists from their strongholds across southern and central Somalia.

The Islamists had earlier declared a "holy war" on Ethiopia for its backing of the secular, U.N.-backed government.

Somalia has been without an effective central authority since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

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