Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 09:40 UK

Islamist rules out Somalia talks

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is seen as Somalia's kingmaker

Somalia's influential Islamist leader has ruled out holding talks with the president to end years of violence.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys called on Islamists to continue fighting the government led by moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Mr Aweys returned to Somalia last month from exile in Eritrea, raising speculation that he might again work with the president.

The pair were joint leaders of a group ousted from Mogadishu in late 2006.

Ethiopian troops helped government forces topple their Union of Islamic Courts, after it had gained control of most of southern Somalia.

But January saw Mr Ahmed elected president as part of a UN-brokered peace deal which saw Ethiopian troops leave the country.

The president had said he was open to talks with Mr Aweys, who some seen as a kingmaker in Somali politics.

map of areas under al-shabaab control

But after his return to Mogadishu, it was not clear whether Mr Aweys would join forces with President Ahmed or the al-Shabab Islamist radicals.

"While we are sticking to our policy, he [President Ahmed] entered into a different politics. Therefore, I am not ready to hold talks with him now," he told reporters in Mogadishu.

"[President] Sharif is in the same trench with the international community and we are against it."

The US accuses both Mr Aweys and al-Shabab of links to al-Qaeda.

Al-Shabab operates freely in much of southern Somalia, while Mr Ahmed's government only controls small pockets of the country.

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