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|ISSUE 57, February 22, 2003||
Somaliland Denies Supporting Anti-Puntland Forces
Nairobi, February 19, 2003 (IRIN): The authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland have denied accusations by the neighbouring self-declared autonomous region of Puntland of supporting and arming dissident forces.
Abdullahi Muhammad Duale, the Somaliland information minister, told IRIN on Wednesday that the charges "are absolutely false and baseless".
Abdishakur Mire Adan, the Puntland deputy information minister, claimed that the Somaliland authorities were arming and supporting forces led by Gen Ade Muse, which are loyal to Jama Ali Jama. Both Jama and Col Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad claim to be the legitimate president of Puntland.
"We have evidence that the Riyale administration [in Somaliland] has allowed Gen Ade Muse to import 12 four-wheel-drive vehicles through the port of Berbera [in Somaliland], and that seven of them have already been turned into technicals [battle-wagons]," Abdishakur told IRIN. He also accused Somaliland of providing the anti-Puntland forces with 300 assorted small arms.
Abdishakur went on to say that Ade Muse's forces were being trained in Hamilka, Sanaag Region, under the protection of Somaliland forces based at the village of Dararweyn, also in Sanaag.
Both Puntland and Somaliland claim ownership of Sool and Sanaag regions, a dispute which led to an attack last month on the Somaliland leader, Dahir Rayale Kahin, who was visiting the area.
Abdishakur warned that Puntland was "losing patience".
"We will be forced to take action against any party posing a threat to our security," he said. "If Somaliland does not stop meddling in Puntland affairs, they will have to face the consequences. The activities of the Rayale administration will lead to a clan war between the Harti [Darod] and the Isaq [the dominant clan in Somaliland]."
However, Duale told IRIN that the only people the Somaliland authorities were helping were "displaced people running for their lives". He said Somaliland would never jeopardize its tranquility by getting involved in other people's disputes.
"Our greatest asset is our security and stability, and we will not jeopardize it for any reason," he said. He noted in this context that Somaliland was busy preparing for its presidential elections, due to be held in mid-April. "Our democratization process is our number one priority," he added.
Duale said that the Abdullahi Yusuf administration was behaving like "someone who has set fire to his house and is now trying to extend the fire to his neighbors".
"Our policy is and has always been to promote peace and stability in our region," he asserted.