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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
US team visits Somalia
Pro-al Qaeda demonstration in Mogadishu
Bin Laden is popular with some people in Mogadishu
The highest-level United States delegation to visit Somalia in several years is in the capital, Mogadishu, to discuss Washington's "war on terrorism" and reconciliation between Somali factions.

President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
Salat has pledged to support the US 'war on terror'
The two-day visit coincides with the start of Western surveillance flights aimed at preventing al-Qaeda members from escaping from Afghanistan to Somalia by sea.

Ethiopia has accused Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG) of being infiltrated by radical Islamists linked to al- Qaeda.

But the TNG, led by President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, has said Osama Bin Laden would not be welcome there and has pledged to help the US fight terrorism.

Peace efforts

The visiting American delegation has been holding talks with TNG leaders.

On Tuesday, the US diplomats met faction leaders opposed to the TNG in the port town of Baidoa, one of their aides told the Associated Press news agency.

Hussein Aideed
Aideed accuses the government of working with al-Qaeda

These include the Ethiopia-backed Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council and the Rahanwein Resistance Army, said Abdulkadir Yahye.

The leader of the US team, Zachary Teich, said he would urge all sides to attend peace talks in Kenya later this month.

The TNG controls only parts of Mogadishu and pockets elsewhere in Somalia.

Most of the country is ruled by militia groups or self-declared autonomous regional governments.

Lawlessness

Somalia descended into war and anarchy after the overthrow of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

US officials have said that al-Qaeda cells could take advantage of the lawlessness which prevails in Somalia.

President Hassan has used this possibility to ask for increased international aid for his government.

Both Britain and Germany forces have started reconnaissance flights off the Somali coast in recent weeks.

See also:

26 Feb 02 | Africa
Mogadishu racked by clan fighting
13 Dec 01 | Africa
Somali 'terrorists return home'
13 Nov 01 | Africa
Somali PM pledges reconciliation
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