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Officials Express Concern About Somaliland-Puntland Clashes


International officials working in Somalia say they are "deeply concerned" about rising tensions between Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region and the breakaway republic of Somaliland.

Forces from the two sides exchanged artillery fire in the disputed Sool region last week.

Thursday, leaders of a group known as Coordination of International Support to Somalis called on all parties to pull their forces from the area immediately and resolve their differences through dialogue.

The statement from the group's co-chairs, United Nations official Eric Laroche and World Bank official Chris Lovelace, also urged the leaders of Puntland and Somaliland to exercise maximum restraint.

Puntland and Somaliland have fought over Sool and the neighboring Sanang region for more than a decade.

Somaliland, a former British colony, declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not been internationally recognized. Puntland has maintained formal ties to Somalia but generally runs its own affairs.

Both areas have remained relatively peaceful compared to the anarchy in southern Somalia since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre 16 years ago.