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Islamist leader vows to retake Somalia

LONDON, May 22 – A senior Somali Islamist opposition leader vowed in an interview published Thursday to force Ethiopian troops from his country and warned that UN-sponsored peace talks would fail.

"We are going to liberate Somalia from Ethiopia," Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was quoted as saying in the British newspaper The Guardian.

UN-sponsored peace talks that opened last week in Djibouti are doomed to fail unless Ethiopia first withdraws all its forces, he added.

"The UN is not impartial. We don’t want to pursue this [peace] process. Our plan is to continue the struggle. It is important to expel the enemy from all areas," said Aweys, 62, who is wanted by Washington for suspected links to Al-Qaeda.

Ethopian and Somali government troops ended Islamist rule over the capital Mogadishu and southern Somalia at the end of 2006, but clashes continue on a nearly daily basis.

Only indirect contacts have taken place so far in the Djibouti talks as the Islamists insist on Ethiopian troops leaving before real negotiations begin.

Hardline Islamist commanders and allied clans are boycotting the talks altogether as they did in 2007 when the last attempt to reconcile the political rivals failed.

The Islamist delegation participating in the talks "went there without consent" said in an interview from Eritrea, Ethiopia’s arch rival.

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