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Warlord threatens peace force in Somalia

MOGADISHU -- A warlord urged Somalis yesterday to attack Ethiopian peacekeeping troops being sent to support the Somali government when it returns from Kenya this month, after last year's peace accord.

The call by Osman Ali Ato, a government minister, revealed fresh signs of division in the new government under President Abdullahi Yusuf, who was elected at the peace talks in Kenya.

Diplomats said Ato's remarks boded ill for a peace mission agreed this week by the 53-nation African Union, which plans to send troops from five countries including Ethiopia to shore up Yusuf's government.

The fledgling Somali government, which has remained in Kenya since its formation, plans to return home Feb. 21, Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi said.

Ato, who is the government's housing minister, said in a radio interview broadcast in the past two days that Yusuf's new government did not need AU help to stabilize Somalia, which plunged into chaos with the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

He accused Yusuf of stirring divisions between Somalia and Ethiopia in an attempt to further Ethiopia's alleged ambitions to control Somalia. Ato's assertion is echoed by a widespread view of Yusuf and his closest colleagues as northerners manipulated by Ethiopia.

''I urge all Somali people to prepare to fight against our enemies, be they Ethiopians or Somalis," Ato said on Radio Shabelle from Kenya, where he and most of his colleagues are still based.

''President Abdullahi Yusuf is the first person who wants clashes between Ethiopians and Somalis."

Also yesterday, a BBC producer sent to Somalia to report on the return of the government and conditions there was shot and killed in Mogadishu. Kate Peyton, 39, was believed to have been shot outside the Sahafi Hotel in the capital, the British broadcaster said.

At least eight foreign journalists have been killed covering Somalia since 1991.

Somalis are usually resistant to outside interference, and the last peace mission there ended in a bloody and humiliating withdrawal by US and UN troops in the mid-1990s.

Somalis resent what they see as attempts by Ethiopia to dominate the Horn of Africa and install a client regime in Mogadishu.

Ethiopia, for centuries a competitor of its Muslim neighbors, is wary of overt regional Islamist influence.

The Crisis Group conflict resolution body said the AU's decision to send troops from neighboring states with a history of involvement in Somalia risked destabilizing the country's fragile transitional institutions.

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