Tribal chiefs and lawmakers from a clan that controls the Somali capital offered to withdraw 15,000 militia fighters from Mogadishu to guarantee the security of the country's transitional government as it returns from exile in Kenya.
About 61 lawmakers, including tribal chiefs-turned-Cabinet ministers, also pledged on Saturday to disarm the fighters, demobilise others and surrender weapons and ammunition to an interim force planned to stabilise the anarchic nation in advance of a larger peacekeeping force.
The militia will be quartered in six camps 30km to 50km outside Mogadishu about three months after lawmakers return to the city, Deputy Prime Minister Husayn Muhammad Aidid said. The government is based in Kenya because the Somali capital is considered unsafe.
Neighbours not welcome
"But there is a condition that troops from neighbouring countries (Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya) should not take part in the relocation plan of the government," said Aidid, a former US Marine.
Ethiopia actively supported Somali factions with money and weapons in the civil war that started in 1991, and its troops could seek to advance Ethiopian interests if deployed in the Horn of Africa nation, Aidid said.
Leaders do not want troops from
neighbouring states to intervene
Somalis also remember the war they lost in 1977 over control of Ethiopia's southeastern Ogaden region, largely inhabited by ethnic Somalis. The Somali army never recovered from the defeat, a fact that eventually helped tribal chiefs to overthrow dictator Muhammad Siad Barri in 1991.
The US State Department supported the stance of Somali lawmakers early this month.
Somalia's transitional parliament is expected to consider two competing motions next week on a multinational force intended to help restore order in the country, Deputy Speaker Dalha Umar said.
He said at least 75 lawmakers filed a motion backing the force - minus troops from the neighbouring countries. The government, however, has tabled a plan that will not bar neighbours, Umar said.
The government will return from
its exile in Kenya
The differences are delaying the return of the government to Somalia, Aidid said.
The tribal chiefs who rejected troops from neighbouring countries include Minster for National Security Muhammad Qanyari Afrah, Minister for Trade Musa Sudi Yalahu, Minister for Demobilisation Butan Isa and Minister for Religious Affairs Umar Muhammad - all members of the Hawiye clan, Aidid said.
African Union force
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gidi's Cabinet asked the African Union and Arab League earlier this month to send between 5000 and 7500 troops with a one-year mandate to protect the government as it organises a police force and army.
The AU Peace and Security Council authorised deployment of an interim force in advance of a fuller AU mission. Residents of Mogadishu and other southern towns, however, have held several demonstrations against having troops from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya included in a force. Some protesters rejected troops from any foreign country.
Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti later said they would send troops only if Somalia requests them.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since clan-based regional commanders ousted Barri. They then turned on each other, sinking the Horn of Africa nation of seven million into anarchy.