Somalia opposition leader calls on AU peacekeepers to leave

Somalia opposition leader calls on AU peacekeepers to leaveNairobi  - A prominent Islamist opposition leader Friday called on African Union peacekeepers to leave Somalia before he would consider joining a coalition government.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys returned to Somalia on Thursday after two years in exile, raising hopes the conflict-hit African nation's new government could succeed in restoring a semblance of order.

He returned home as donors pledged 213 million dollars to support the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia and boost the police force and judiciary.

Aweys called the AU troops "invaders" and said they did not bring peace.

Aweys, who the US says is a terrorist with links to al-Qaeda, fled to Eritrea in early 2007 after Ethiopian forces ousted the Union of Islamic Courts, of which he was a leader.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif SHeikh Mohamed was also a leader of the UIC, and the two men formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) together after the UIC fell.

However, they split when Sheikh Sharif - the more moderate of the two - took part in the UN-sponsored peace process that saw him elected as president in January after Ethiopia pulled its forces out.

Somalia has been embroiled in chaos since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The insurgency has claimed the lives of over 15,000 civilians since early 2007 and the insecurity has helped feed an explosion of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.(dpa)

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