PRESS CONFERENCE BY ETHIOPIA

21 May 2002

PRESS CONFERENCE BY ETHIOPIA

21/05/2002
Press Briefing

PRESS CONFERENCE BY ETHIOPIA

A well-coordinated attempt was being made to "internationalize" the conflict in Somalia, Abdul Mejid Hussein, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Mr. Hussein said that some countries further away from the Horn of Africa were attempting to create unnecessary divisions in the subregion, which would have wider ramifications.  There had been a substantial flow of arms from those countries to Somalia's Transitional National Government in the past few weeks which made a mockery of the 1992 Security Council embargo, he added.

The Transitional National Government planned to use those arms to seize control of Mogadishu's air and sea ports currently held by other factions, he said.  That contemplated action flew in the face of the positions held by the Security Council, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which called for the peaceful settlement of the Somali conflict.

Mr. Hussein denied allegations of involvement by his country's forces in recent fighting in Gedo, south-western Somalia.  "Ethiopia vehemently rejects these fabrications and lies.  They are a continuation of a diatribe by a small group that is not even in charge of the [Somali] capital, but blames Ethiopia when it becomes desperate", he said, referring to the Transitional National Government.

He said the fighting in Gedo was between a faction of the Marehan clan, heavily armed by the Transitional National Government, and another faction that supported the Somali Reconciliation and Reconstruction Council.  Ethiopia had no quarrel with the majority of the Somali people and was the only country in the world to welcome tens of thousands of Somali refugees since the collapse of the central government a decade ago.

Extremist factions inside the Transitional National Government were planning a jihad to establish an Islamic republic in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the Horn, he said.  They included Al-Itihad al-Islami (Islamic Union) and others in Somalia's Transitional Assembly and police.  Ironically, Ethiopia's 30 million Muslims outnumbered the entire Somali population, he noted, adding that the efforts of those extremists did not bode well for the war against terrorism.

Asked whether Somalia harboured anti-Ethiopian terrorist groups, he replied that the only one was the Ogaden National Liberation Front.  Ethiopia's fight against terrorism predated 11 September and even the collapse of Somalia's Government in 1991.

In response to another question, he told another correspondent that he could not at present name the countries that were arming the Transitional National Government.

Responding to another question, he emphasized Ethiopia support for upcoming talks in Nairobi aimed at completing the Arta (Djibouti) process that had established the Transitional National Government.  The Nairobi conference should include all parties, including those that had not participated in the Arta process, which even IGAD accepted was incomplete.

For information media. Not an official record.