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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 12:24 GMT
Somalia's new passport sparks row
Somali passport
Passports are easily available in Mogadishu
Plans to introduce a new passport in Somalia have worsened relations between the fragile government and the Islamists who control the capital.

The government says it will introduce a new machine-readable document because of the existence of so many forgeries.

But the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) dismissed the move, saying it would make travel more difficult.

Somalia has not had an effective government for 15 years and some fear the renewed outbreak of hostilities.

In the absence of any authority, Somali passports, even diplomatic ones, are easily available in the markets of the capital, Mogadishu.

As a result, few countries recognise them as valid travel documents.

Mistrust

At the launch of the new passport in Kenya, Foreign Minister Ismail Mohamud Hurre urged Somalis to apply for the new documents.

map

"There is a need for our citizens to have electronic passports that are accepted by the international community," he said.

But his government only controls a small patch of territory around the town of Baidoa, while the Islamists rule the rest of southern Somalia.

It is not clear how people would apply for the new passports.

UIC spokesman Abdurahim Ali Muddey said it would not be accepted at Mogadishu's main airport, which the Islamists reopened in July after it had been shut for more than a decade.

"They should have waited until the reconciliation process is complete... We will use the old one until we get a government that controls the whole country," he said.

"The new passport will not only make travel difficult, but increases tension and mistrust."

Peace talks between the two sides were cancelled last week.

Ethiopia is accused of sending thousands of troops to help the government, while its rival Eritrea is reported to be supporting the Islamists.

Both countries deny the claims.




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