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Somalia's Interim Government Seeks to Assert Authority

Officials from Somalia's interim government are seeking to return to Mogadishu and assert its authority after Ethiopian forces helped Somali troops drive Islamist fighters out of the capital.

The nearly powerless U.N.-backed government has been forced to operate out of the smaller city of Baidoa for the past six months.

The Islamists were pushed out of their last major strongholds last week and are now scattered in the forests and bush throughout southern Somalia.

U.S. naval ships are keeping watch on the waters off Somalia for any Islamist fighters who may try to flee.

Ethiopia's prime minister says his country's troops may leave Somalia within a few weeks. But Somalia's interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said Tuesday the Ethiopians might stay for months

Both Ethiopia and Somalia are appealing for an African peacekeeping force.

Meanwhile, Somalis appear to be ignoring a government call for people to surrender their weapons. Witnesses in Mogadishu say not a single gun was turned in Tuesday.

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

Islamist movement leaders say they were trying to end chaos in Somalia. Mainly Christian Ethiopia said if felt threatened by a hardline Islamic movement on its border.

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