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UPDATED: 08:05, January 17, 2007
Kenyan, Ethiopian leaders vow to stabilize Somalia
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Leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia on Tuesday vowed to push forward efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation in Somalia, which has been undergoing military operation for the past three weeks.

In a joint statement issued in Nairobi, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi also underlined their commitment to mobilizing regional and international support to help Somalia achieve peace and security and embark on the process of reconstruction.

"The leaders called for the immediate deployment of an AU-IGAD stabilization force to Somalia in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 1725 of Dec. 6, 2006," said the statement issued after a one-day visit by Meles.

"The two leaders welcomed the offers made by a number of African countries to contribute troops and invited other African countries to support the initiative," the statement said.

The Ethiopian premier's visit came as Kenya, which chairs a seven-nation regional peace body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is lobbying African countries to contribute troops to a peacekeeping force in war-ravaged Somalia.

Kenya has sent ministers and special envoys to ask Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Tunisia and Algeria to contribute to a proposed 8,000-strong peacekeeping force.

So far only Uganda has offered a 1,500-strong troop, although parliamentary approval is yet to be gained.

During the meeting, the two leaders noted that the developments in Somalia, in particular the return of the Ethiopian-backed government to Mogadishu, was a positive development which presented a window of opportunity for the international community to consolidate peace and stabilize Somalia.

"In this regard, they agreed to intensify consultations between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the immediate neighboring countries in order to enhance the stabilization in Somalia," the statement said.

They urged the transitional government, which routed out Islamists from Mogadishu, to continue pursuing the consolidation of peace and the reconciliation in Somalia.

Meles thanked Kenya for the constructive role it had continued to play in the regional peace efforts.

He also expressed his gratitude to his host, President Kibaki, for the warm and brotherly welcome extended to him during the visit.

African Union (AU) officials are currently in Mogadishu to discuss peacekeeping at the invitation of the Somali government but regional diplomats said it is unlikely AU members would agree to send peacekeepers unless fighting comes to an end.

Source: Xinhua

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