Egypt “understands” Ethiopia’s Somali intervention

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Egypt said on Thursday it understood why Ethiopia intervened militarily against Islamists in Somalia, despite an earlier Arab consensus that Ethiopian troops should withdraw.

Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said President Hosni Mubarak stated the Egyptian position at a meeting with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin.

“President Mubarak expressed his understanding for the reasons behind the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia, which was based upon the request of the legitimate interim Somali government,” Awad told reporters after the meeting.

Before the Somali government and Ethiopian troops captured the capital Mogadishu last month, Arab governments said unanimously that Ethiopian troops should leave the country, which is a member of the Cairo-based Arab League.

But conservative Arab governments such as Egypt’s also had reservations about the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), which had imposed sharia law across much of southern Somalia.

Awad added that Mubarak said he supported the deployment of an African peacekeeping force in Somalia.

The SICC fled Mogadishu last week in the face of advancing government troops backed by Ethiopian tanks and warplanes.

Many Somalis say they resent the government as an Ethiopian puppet propelled to power by Ethiopian troops, and analysts say the SICC may still launch an insurgency against a government they see as supported by a hated, Christian-led “occupier”.

In November, a U.N. report said Egypt was among a number of countries had provided training to the SICC. It said a senior retired Egyptian officer, who is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was aboard a vessel carrying arms to Somalia.

At the time, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the report was “totally untrue”.


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