"There will be flame in the capital Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa, Johar, Beledweyne, all the south and central will be in flames."

Mohamed Abdulkadir Ahmed, another Somali government spokesman, said on Sunday: "The door of talks was not shut by the government, which is a reconciliation government, but by the Islamic Courts."

"Brink of War"

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, said that tensions were running high with loud speakers at mosques calling on Somalis to sign up in preparation to fight against what the UIC calls "aggression" against their country by Ethiopia.

He said there are fears that with UIC fighters and Ethiopian and Somali government troops being in such close proximity, any type of small skirmish could lead to the beginning of a war.

"The Ethiopian government have said that it is not a serious threat and so they are not going to give it credibility by acting upon it"

Kalay Maistry
Al Jazeera

The Islamists took Mogadishu in June and spread across south Somalia, challenging the aspirations of the government of Abdullahi Yusuf, the Somali president, to restore central rule to the Horn of Africa nation for the first time since warlords removed a dictator in 1991.

Kalay Maistry, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, said that the closing-in of the UIC on Baidoa has not provoked a reaction from Ethiopa.

"They have adopted a wait and see approach. They [the Ethiopian government] have said that it is not a serious threat and so they are not going to give it credibility by acting upon it," Maistry said.

"Invading soldiers"

The Somali government says thousands of foreign radicals have bolstered the Islamists' ranks, while Washington last week accused the movement of being run by an al Qaeda cell.
   
The Islamists say the government, formed in Kenya in 2004, has no popular legitimacy and has allowed more than 30,000 "invading" Ethiopian soldiers into Somalia to prop them up in Baidoa.
   
Mohamud Muse Hirsi, the president of the semi-autonomous north Somali region of Puntland, visited Baidoa on Sunday apparently to express his support for Yusuf's government.

Somali government troops patrol Baidoa 

Speaking to reporters after Yusuf met Hirsi, Abdirahman Said Mahamud, Puntland's health minister, would not give details of the talks but implied the region would be loyal to Yusuf.
   
"Puntland is part of the administration under the interim federal government," he said.

Puntland is Yusuf's homeland and is also believed by experts to be hosting thousands of Ethiopian troops.