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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Summit Presses Africans for Troops for Somalia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- An African summit Tuesday discussed raising thousands more troops for a peacekeeping force in Somalia after defusing a potentially damaging dispute over Sudan.

The force, essential to avoid a dangerous vacuum when Ethiopian troops leave Somalia within weeks, needs 4,000 more troops to bring it up to a projected strength of almost 8,000.

Ethiopia, whose military might enabled Somalia's interim government to crush Islamists threatening to overthrow it, says its mission is complete.

Officials were lobbying African countries at the summit to contribute more troops.

While the presidents met, European aid chief Louis Michel said the interim government had agreed to hold a broad reconciliation conference of clan and religious leaders and political groups to discuss the turbulent country's future.

Europe, the United States and Ethiopia had called on President Abdullahi Yusuf to open up to as many factions as possible, particularly moderate Islamists and powerful clan leaders, in order to stabilize the anarchic country.

Michel said after meeting Yusuf that he was impressed by his commitment to reconciliation and that the European Union would release 15 million euros ($19 million) to finance the African Union peacekeeping force.

The European money had been made conditional on the government reaching out to defeated Islamists and other parties.

In a keynote address to the meeting of the 53-nation summit on Monday, its top diplomat, Alpha Oumar Konare, chastised African countries for not moving more quickly to provide troops.