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INTERVIEW-Eritrea blames Somalia's neighbours for violence

* President says peace cannot be imposed

 * Sanctions threat against Eritrea gathers pace

 By Jeremy Clarke

 ASMARA, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki said on Wednesday that years of interference by neighbouring countries had fuelled the violence in Somalia.

 He blamed Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti for having fanned the conflict in the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

 "These neighbouring countries are part of the problem, they are not a part of the solution," Isaias told Reuters in an interview.

 The former Marxist guerrilla rejected suggestions that a solution to the violence — which has killed 18,000 since the start of 2007 — could be imposed on the divided nation.

 "For the parties who are a part of the problem to come with the solution is unthinkable. The experience of the last 20 years is proof to that," Isaias said.

 "It is not an option to impose a government from outside in Mogadishu and declare that government to be a government of all Somalia. You cannot impose a peacekeeping force in one city and say there is a government."

 Isaias said the involvement of the United States was complicating the peace process because it had become preoccupied with hunting terrorist suspects.

 "The United States (and others) getting involved in Somalia because of what they call terrorism is a problem. In Somalia it is distorting the facts on the ground and probably fuelling undesired external intervention from neighbouring countries."

 SANCTIONS?

 Washington and the United Nations accuse Eritrea of sending arms and other support to Somali insurgents battling the country’s U.N.-backed government — something Asmara denies.

 A U.N. arms monitoring body — set up to watch violations of a 1992 arms embargo — said Asmara was sending plane- and boat-loads of munitions to Somali rebels, as well as providing them with logistical support.

 The U.N. body said Asmara was providing between $200,000 and $500,000 a month to support the rebels.

 The move towards imposing sanctions on Eritrea has gathered speed in recent weeks with Britain joining the chorus of nations willing to punish the Red Sea state.

 The U.N. Security Council, the African Union and the United States have all warned Eritrea against destabilising Somalia.

 Isaias denied the accusations and said sanctions should not be imposed without evidence.

 "All these accusations have nothing to do with the reality on the ground. If you have evidence, come up and show me." (Editing by Giles Elgood)


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