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Bildt warns of war in Africa

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11:59 CET+01:00
Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt has warned that Africa is on the verge of a major regional conflict. Speaking in an interview with news agency TT, Bildt expressed concern at rising tensions on the continent and in particular in the Horn of Africa.

"We're seeing escalating conflicts in the whole belt, from the Central African Republic to Somalia," said Bildt.

The minister said that a solution must be found via political processes.

"In Somalia, where developments are worsening, there has not yet been any success in bringing the warring factions together around the negotiating table, but there is nevertheless a hint of a political process," said Bildt, who added that the most important thing right now is to prevent a military escalation.

Bildt noted that Ethiopia and Eritrea both already have troops in Somalia, and he said he was deeply concerned about the situation.

"There is a risk that the domestic conflicts in Somalia could develop into a regional war. And that would make an already serious situation even worse. So that's why an attempt at mediation is of the utmost importance," he said.

According to the Sweidsh foreign minister, who on Saturday spoke to the Swedish representative working with the EU's attempt to bring about a mediation, the situation is hard to analyse. Among the groups involved in the conflict in Somalia there are some who advocate discussions and others who take a more aggressive stance.

"But the job now is very much to prevent this from becoming a military escalation," said Bilt, who believes that political pressure should also be put on Ethiopia, which on Sunday admitted that it is involved in the conflict between Somali Islamists and government forces.

"As always, it's very easy start wars, and very hard to stop them in the right way," he said.

Bildt acknowledged that there are Swedish citizens in Somalia, but pointed out that Sweden's ability to help them is very limited.

"That's why we we have explicitly said that people should not go there," he said.

On Saturday the United Nations Security Council agreed on sanctions against Iran, which the US and others have said is developing nuclear weapons.

Carl Bildt said he was satisfied with the result.

"It's very important that the international community acts as one," said Bildt, who believes that from a European standpoint the resolution "is well balanced". He added that the resolution should be seen as one step in a potentially longer process.

"Note that the International Atomic Energy Agency will report in 60 days on how Iran is meeting its requirements on uranium enrichment and on full cooperation, and that the way things currently look the probability that that will be positive result is very limited. There must be room for further measures," said Bildt.

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