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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 16:55 GMT
Strikes on Somalia 'unjustified'
Somali children suffering from famine
Somalis are already struggling with drought and war
Interim Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah has strongly rejected American charges that the al-Qaeda network led by Osama Bin Laden has bases in Somalia.

He was responding in a BBC interview to a statement from a top United States official that Washington had evidence of definite links between al-Qaeda and the Somali Islamic group, al-Itihad.

We have sent to the Bush administration a letter of invitation to come here to see what is here... We are ready to fight against the terrorists

Hassan Abshir Farah
Asked about reports that the US might carry out air strikes on Somalia, Mr Hassan Abshir said there would be no justification for this.

He commented wryly that Somalis themselves had already wrought enough destruction on their country.

"We have sent to the Bush administration a letter of invitation to come here to see what is here... We are ready to fight against the terrorists," he said.

UN officials have said they have found no credible evidence to link Somalia to terrorist camps, but fears persisit within the country of some kind of US action.

US moves

Already a US warship has been stationed off the Somali coast and this weekend there were reports that surveillance flights had been carried out over the country.

Interim president Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
Hassan is a worried man

Reports have also spoken of a meeting between US officers and opposition warlords in Somalia's second city of Baidoa to identify potential "terrorist" targets, according to sources.

"They were discussing whether they (the warlords) know of any terrorist bases in south and south-west Somalia," Reuters quoted a source as saying.

The interim prime minister also said a new peace conference for Somalia would open later this week in Nairobi.

He said he hoped to be able to announce a new cabinet after this which would include all factions.

Mogadishu's transitional government controls only parts of the capital and Washington fears that the absence of state authority makes Somalia a potential haven for extremist groups.

The BBC's Jeff Phillips and Nita Bhalla
ask if the US will strike Somalia
Somalia's Interim PM, Hassan Abshir Farah
"The allegations are baseless"
See also:

23 Nov 01 | Africa
US shuts down Somalia internet
08 Nov 01 | Africa
Somali company 'not terrorist'
26 Sep 01 | Africa
US targets Somali group
24 Sep 01 | Africa
UN pulls out of Somalia
21 Sep 01 | Africa
Somalia rejects Bin Laden link
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