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Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007, 10:26 GMT
Somali warlords hand over weapons
Soldiers guards surrendered battle-wagons
The militias will now strengthen the national army
One of Somalia's main warlords has surrendered his "battle wagons" to the interim government, while his militia has been merged into the army.

Omar Finish handed over six vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns and some 80 fighters. He becomes the third warlord to lay down his arms this week.

The warlords agreed to disarm last week - but as they did so, their gunmen battled in the capital, Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, the African Union is meeting to discuss a peacekeeping force.

Ethiopian troops helped the government oust Islamist forces from the capital and much of southern Somalia but they are keen to withdraw as soon as possible.

POSSIBLE PEACEKEEPERS
8,000-strong force proposed
Uganda: 1,500 troops offered, subject to parliamentary approval
Tanzania: Considering
Nigeria: Considering
Rwanda: Considering
South Africa: Considering but forces stretched

Uganda's ruling National Resistance Movement has approved plans to send some 1,500 peacekeepers to Somalia, meaning that parliament is almost certain to back the plans when it meets later this month.

The 6,000-strong government forces are not seen as being capable of controlling the lawless country on their own - although it is being strengthened by the warlords.

On Wednesday, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah and Musa Sudi Yalahow handed over their weapons, as they had agreed to after meeting President Abdullahi Yusuf last week.

They surrendered control of about 300 men and 60 battle wagons between them.

Four other warlords said their militias would disarm but they have not yet done so.

The former militiamen will now go to a military camp for training.

Their clan-based militias have battled for control of parts of Somalia for the past 16 years - since the country last had an effective national government.

The militias were hated by many Somalis for running road-blocks, where they extorted money.

Power vacuum

On Thursday, UN envoy to Somalia Francois Fall urged the country not to waste "the best opportunity for peace for 16 years" after visiting interim President Abdullahi Yusuf in Mogadishu.

Mr Yusuf arrived in Mogadishu last week for the first time since being elected president at peace talks in 2004.

UN envoy Francois Fall (l) and Somalia President Abdullahi Yusuf (r)
Francois Fall (l) urged President Yusuf to form an inclusive government
The leaders of Ethiopia and Kenya on Tuesday said several unnamed African countries had offered to contribute troops to the proposed 8,000-strong force.

So far only Uganda has agreed to provide peacekeepers.

Both South Africa and Tanzania have said it is too early to decide whether they will contribute troops to the proposed African peacekeeping force.

Nigeria and Uganda are set to discuss the issue at the end of the month and BBC African analyst Martin Plaut says it would take weeks for any troops to be deployed.

He says that if the Ethiopian forces withdraw before peacekeepers arrive, that could result in a dangerous power vacuum.


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