Eritrea sees CIA behind Somalia arms accusations

Thu May 21, 2009 9:10am GMT
 

By Andrew Cawthorne

ASMARA (Reuters) - Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki said renewed accusations that Asmara is arming Somalia's Islamist rebels was the work of CIA agents in the region bent on blackening his government's name.

"We don't interfere (in Somalia) and we don't want to see any terrorism prevail in Somalia," Isaias told Reuters.

Somalia's government has accused Eritrea of supporting al Shabaab insurgents with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

To the anger of Asmara -- which says there is no evidence in accusations that have been around for several years -- the U.N. has ordered a probe and east African bloc IGAD wants sanctions on Eritrea including a no-fly zone.

"It's CIA operatives ... these people are liars," Isaias, a former rebel commander in power since 1991, said during an interview at Asmara's colonial-era presidential palace.

"This is a continuation of the old story. I know for sure, even the individuals behind these things. I don't want to talk about that because it would poison the whole mood."

Former U.S. president George W. Bush's government had threatened to put Eritrea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and Isaias said old interest groups were still jostling for influence with President Barack Obama.

He said Asmara would wait to see the impact of the Bush-Obama transition, and what he termed a bigger historical transition of U.S. economic ties and international attitudes.   Continued...

<p>Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki speaks during an interview in Asmara, May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti</p>
 
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