October 27, 2008 / 11:16 AM / 11 years ago

Ethiopia says will exit under Somalia peace deal

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia said on Monday it will respect a U.N.-brokered peace deal for Somalia requiring the gradual withdrawal of its troops whose presence is the main bone of contention for opposition groups.

Somalia’s government signed a ceasefire agreement with moderate leaders of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) on Sunday after meeting an opposition demand to fix the exit of Ethiopian troops.

Under the deal reached in Djibouti the troops would start re-locating from parts of Mogadishu and the garrison town Baladwayne on November 21.

A “second phase” of withdrawal would be completed within three months. The plan envisions a 10,000-strong security force jointly prepared by the government and opposition filling the security vacuum left by the Ethiopian soldiers.

Addis Ababa said it backed the plan.

“The agreement reached in Djibouti, between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), is in line with our policy of orderly withdrawal,” said foreign ministry spokesman Wahade Belay.

“Ethiopia will implement the decisions reached by the two parties in Djibouti on Sunday.”

The agreement does not, however, explicitly mention the full withdrawal of all Ethiopian troops by a certain date, so is unlikely to placate hardliners who have boycotted the peace process taking place in neighboring Djibouti.

Ethiopian troops joined Somali government forces to push Islamists out of Mogadishu in late 2006, ending their six-month rule of most of the south. But Islamist fighters regrouped to launch an insurgency from early 2007 that has killed at least 10,000 civilians and displaced about 1 million people.

Somali politicians were arriving in Nairobi on Monday ahead of a meeting of the east African inter-governmental bloc IGAD. Regional leaders were expected to press the government to allow some power-sharing with moderate opposition leaders.

“Whether of moderate views or no views, we want all of them to be part-and-parcel of the leadership of the country because divided they won’t get anywhere,” Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said ahead of the IGAD summit.

Somalia has suffered 17 years of civil conflict since warlords toppled a military dictator.

(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse in Addis Ababa and Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi)

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