Islamic authorities in Somalia on Thursday renewed their objections to a proposed foreign peacekeeping force in the lawless Horn of Africa nation, saying such move would jeopardize attempts to pacify the nation.
Members of Somalia's Supreme Islamic Courts Council stressed their position during a meeting with a joint fact-finding mission, made up of European Union, African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the Arab League during the talks in Mogadishu.
According to a letter delivered to the mission, the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) urged the international community to help facilitate the planned July 15 talks in Sudan between the court leaders and the transitional government.
"Residents of Mogadishu and the Islamic courts have categorically stated their objection to the injection of foreign troops into our country," read the letter, which was availed to the media.
The court leaders described foreign peacekeepers as "alien forces" and said their presence would be both unnecessary and counter-productive to the efforts being made to stabilize the lawless nation.
"We believe that alien forces are both unnecessary and counter- productive," the SCIC Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of the executive committee told the some 24-member team.
The joint fact finding mission is in Somalia to assess the situation in the capital Mogadishu, ahead of a proposed deployment of regional peacekeeping troops.
The letter delivered to the team by Somali leaders, including business, civil society and traditional leaders, expressed their opposition to the deployment of foreign forces in the country.
"We made it clear to the team that we are opposed to any deployment of foreign forces in our country. There is no need for them, since Mogadishu is now pacified," Ahmed reportedly said.
They said "bringing in foreign forces at this stage will only add to the problems of Somalia and will only worsen the situation. "
Somalia's United Nations-backed transitional government has called for an African peacekeeping force to stabilize the mostly- lawless country.
Leaders of the transitional federal government have told the fact-finding mission to speed up the deployment of foreign troops to enable the largely powerless government gain a foothold at home.
During their talks held in the central town of Baidoa on Wednesday, the Somalia's transitional government told the experts of the urgent need for peacekeepers from regional states and perhaps Muslim nations to stabilize the lawless country.
The SCIC has taken control of Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia since June 4, when they drove out a group of faction leaders who had controlled the city since 1991 after the fall of the Muhammad Siad Barre administration.
According to transitional government spokesman Abdurahman Dinari, the joint team met the leadership of the transitional federal institutions (TFIs), in the town of Baidoa, 240km northwest of Mogadishu.
"The team met President Abdullahi Yusuf, Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi and Speaker Sharif Hassan. They discussed the new developments in Mogadishu and the overall security situation in the country," Dinari said by telephone from Baidoa, the current seat of the government.
He said the two sides agreed that the July 15 talks to be held in Khartoum, Sudan "should be encouraged and speeded up to reach common ground."
Authorities from the interim government and those of the SCIC met on June 23 in Khartoum and agreed to mutually recognize each other and meet again on July 15 in a bid to bring stability to the war-torn country.
Somalis, weary after 15 years without an effective national government, are worried about a possible new conflict between Islamist and secular forces in their country.
Islamic courts are attempting to impose strict sharia (Islamic) law over areas in their control.
On Tuesday, fighters loyal to the courts shot and killed two people during a protest against a ban on watching the World Cup. But SCIC chairman Sheikh Dahir Aweys, vowed on Thursday to bring the gunmen who shot dead two people watching a World Cup match to Islamic justice.