The government has asked parliament to approve a request to bring African Union troops into the country, to help halt the violence and disarm factions, Aljazeera's correspondent in Somalia reported on Sunday.

A leader of the Islamic courts group on Sunday rejected any foreign intervention.

"Any foreign interference in Somalia will aggravate the current crisis," said Shaikh Sharif Shaikh Ahmed, leader of the Islamic courts.

He called for the international community to help his country by other means.

The Somali prime minister is to discuss military support with East African prime ministers at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). If parliament and the East African nations agree to the plan, it will be referred to the UN Security Council, the Somali prime minister said.
The Somali parliament has previously rejected a similar proposal, which involved bringing forces from neighbouring countries, such as Ethiopia and Kenya. 

Contact group plan

Ahmed has welcomed US calls for the formation of a "contact group" to support the country but criticised the US for its support of the local commanders he drove out of the capital last Monday.

Islamic courts' Ahmed welcomed
formation of a 'contact group'

Ahmed told a local radio station: "It was wrong for America to support warlords that are unpopular within their community."

Ahmed denied that the Islamic courts were harbouring terrorists, contrary to accusations made by the US.

"The Islamic courts have written to the international community stating their position," Ahmed said, referring to an open letter to diplomats on Wednesday denying accusations that the Islamic courts had links to the al-Qaeda network.

On Friday, Sean McCormack, a state department spokesman, said the contact group would meet this week in New York with other interested states which he did not identify. A senior state department official said these were likely to be Britain, Italy, Norway and unspecified African countries.

Call for surrender

Ahmed has also urged members of the reportedly US-backed, Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) to surrender peacefully.

At least three of the commanders from the alliance are believed to be in the Karan district, where they are protected by a powerful clan and Somali watchers believe they are planning new fighting.

Washington, which has never confirmed or denied its support for the commanders, said it would "reserve judgement" on the Islamists.