Monday, October 26, 2009

Djibouti says Eritrea arming, training militias

CAIRO, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Djibouti's foreign minister accused neighbouring Eritrea on Sunday of arming and training militias to carry out sabotage in the tiny Horn of Africa country, and of fomenting chaos in the region.

"Eritrea is exporting chaos. Exporting chaos has become routine in Eritrea," Mahmoud Ali Youssef told reporters in Cairo after talks with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

"They have started training militias and arming them to carry out sabotage in Djibouti, just as they support elements in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia," he added.

Djibouti, a former French colony which separates Eritrea from Somalia, hosts France's largest military base in Africa and a major U.S. base. Its port is used by foreign navies patrolling busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia to fight piracy.

The Red Sea state of 800,000 people is also the main route to the sea for neighbouring Ethiopia, Eritrea's arch enemy and Washington's chief regional ally.

Youssef repeated regional complaints that Eritrea was backing Somalia's al Shabaab insurgent group, which Washington says is al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia. Youssef said he and Moussa also discussed developments in Somalia and Yemen.

The United States and the United Nations accuse Eritrea of supporting al Shabaab, something Asmara denies. Ethiopia also accuses Eritrea of supporting fighters in its ethnically Somali eastern Ogaden region.

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki last week blamed the long-running conflict in Somalia on years of interference by Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. [ID:nLL449711]

The U.N. Security Council, the African Union and Washington have all warned Asmara against destabilising Somalia, and a move to impose sanctions has gathered speed, with Britain joining a chorus of states willing to punish Eritrea.

Moussa said he will travel to Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti next month to discuss the deteriorating situation in the region, especially Somalia and Yemen, and the crisis between Djibouti and Eritrea.