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Somalia told to get rid of terrorists

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KHARTOUM, Sudan — The leaders of Sudan and Uganda warned Somalia on Saturday to rid itself of terrorists before the United States takes its anti-terror campaign to the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir said he was appealing to the transitional national government in Somalia to do everything possible "to avoid this (U.S.) strike, which will increase the suffering of the Somalis."

The United States says it is conducting reconnaissance flights over Somalia and intercepting ships to help determine whether the al-Qaida terrorist network, accused in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, is attempting to regroup in the country after being routed in Afghanistan. But U.S. officials have declined to say if Somalia is a future target in the war on terrorism.

"We know that there are no camps as such," el-Bashir said of al-Qaida presence in the country. "There could be some elements that infiltrated among the civilians. And these are in most cases tribal elements, not the ideological ones, so this is why in the resolution on Somalia, the national elements and other factions are urged to work on eliminating terrorism."

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni made his first trip to Khartoum since the two countries severed relations in 1995 over mutual accusations that each country was harboring rebels from the other.

"We want our brothers in Somalia to themselves take care of, if there are any, renegade elements and outlaws," said el-Bashir.

Somalia, a largely lawless Muslim nation in the Horn of Africa, has not had a functioning central government for a decade. The transitional government headed by President Abdiqasim Salat Hassan took office in Somalia last year, but it has never been recognized by the United States and has little influence outside the capital, Mogadishu.

The Somali president did not make public comments at the summit.

The United States suspects al-Itihad al-Islamiya, a militant Somali Muslim group, of links with al-Qaida.

Sudan has been mentioned by U.S. officials as a potential target in the war against terrorism. But most foreign diplomats in Khartoum agree that Sudan is no longer a base or safe haven for extremist groups.

In 1998, the United States bombed a pharmaceutical plant in the capital, Khartoum, that Washington said was linked to bin Laden and was manufacturing chemical weapons components.