Syria denies arming Somali Islamists

Date: 11-16-06

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syria denied sending weapons to Somali Islamists in violation of the arms embargo imposed on Somalia since 1992, rejecting the conclusions of a United Nations report.

An official quoted by the official SANA news agency "denied reports published in Le Monde and the Financial Times according to which Syria sent weapons to armed Somali Islamists" in the impoverished Horn of Africa country.

The French and British dailies earlier this week published extracts from the report, which will be presented to the UN Security Council on Friday.

"The published reports are completely without foundation, whatever their source," the Syrian official added.

According to the report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Wednesday, the Somali Islamists are supported by Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militia.

The interim Somali government in Baidoa receives military backing from Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen.

Iran has also rejected the report's conclusions.

Since seizing Mogadishu in June, the Islamists have expanded their territory to include most of southern and central Somalia where they have imposed strict Sharia law.

Somalia, a nation of about 10 million, has lacked a functioning central authority since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. A transitional administration established in 2004 has proved incapable of restoring order.


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