Protesters Reject Foreign Peacekeepers for Somalia

Hundreds of supporters of the Islamic group that holds Somalia's capital and much of the south demonstrated Thursday against a proposal to deploy foreign peacekeepers.

A day earlier, the country's weak transitional parliament approved the deployment of Ugandan and Sudanese peacekeepers to help it establish stability and its authority. That could set the government up for a confrontation with the Islamic fighters, who have repeatedly rejected the idea of foreign troops.

While the Islamic fighters are consolidating their hold over southern Somalia, the government is relegated to Baidoa, 155 miles northwest of Mogadishu. A demonstration in favor of peacekeepers was held in Baidoa Thursday.

In Mogadishu, the demonstrators gathered at the main stadium carrying placards that read, "We don't need foreign peacekeepers," and "We can restore peace and stability ourselves."

The transitional government, whose military consists of little more than the president's personal militia, has watched from the sidelines as the Islamic forces overcame a coalition of secular warlords to take control of southern Somalia. The Islamic forces took Mogadishu on June 6.

U.S. officials have acknowledged backing the warlords against the Islamic group. In response to the Islamic militia's growing power, the United States convened a meeting on Somalia in New York on Thursday.

The Islamic group, accused by the United States of harboring Al Qaeda, portrays itself as free of links to Somalia's past turmoil and capable of bringing order and unity.

The Islamic group's control over southern Somalia is a feat unmatched since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The country has had no effective central government since then.