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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Somalia PM snubs Islamist talks
Islamist fighters
The Islamists control much of southern Somalia
Somalia's government will not take part in peace talks with Islamists due on Saturday, after fighting in Mogadishu, the prime minister has told the BBC.

Ali Mohammed Ghedi blamed the Union of Islamic Courts, which controls much of southern Somalia, for clashes in which at least 21 people were killed.

He said he would only hold talks with moderate groups and civil society.

Mr Ghedi also urged the UN Security Council to lift its arms embargo on Somalia when it meets on Monday.

Dealing with Sheikh Aweys means dealing with Bin Laden
Prime Minister Ghedi
He said the weak, UN-backed government needed to be able to buy weapons to be able to restore security in the country, which has not had an effective national government for 15 years.

"We want to re-establish our national security services - train them, equip them," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Rocket fire

Mr Ghedi said the UIC had broken the ceasefire agreed at talks last month in Khartoum.

Both the UIC and the warlords they are fighting claim to have made advances in the clashes in the south of the capital, Mogadishu.

Fighters have been exchanging mortar, rocket and machine-gun fire.

The fighting has focused on the Medina district, through which traffic to the south travels.

Hundreds of people have fled the fighting.

"We were trapped inside our home for three hours, we could not even stand up," because of stray bullets, said Said Yahye, who eventually managed to escape with his three sons.

Abdi Qeybdid is the last of the warlords defeated by the Islamists still in Mogadishu.

Most of the other members of the Anti-Terror Alliance fled the city but last week the other warlord still in the city joined the Islamists, along with all his forces.

Mr Qeybdid was backed by another warlord, Hussein Aideed, who was not a member of the alliance but is interior minister in the government.

He is from the same sub-clan as Mr Qeybdid.

Public flogging

In Jowhar, one of the towns under the control of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), 11 youths convicted of minor offences, such as possessing cannabis and illegal gemstones, were publicly flogged.

This is one of the first such punishments carried out since the UIC took control of Jowhar and other towns, including much of Mogadishu, last month.

The UIC in theory amputate the hands of thieves and stone murderers and rapists to death but such punishments have not been carried out recently.

The US has accused the UIC of having links to al-Qaeda and is believed to have backed the defeated warlords.

Mr Ghedi repeated these accusations - strongly denied by the Islamists.

He singled out Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on a US list of people with links to al-Qaeda.

"Dealing with Sheikh Aweys means dealing with Bin Laden."

He also denied reports that the UIC was in control of most of Mogadishu, saying they control less than 20% of the city.

The weak, UN-backed government is based in Baidoa, 200km from Mogadishu.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Recent fighting in Mogadishu left 21 people dead



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