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U.S. planes airlift weapons to Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya -- U.S. military transport planes have begun an airlift of $5.5 million in emergency weapons and supplies to Somalia to aid in its war against Ethiopia, Somalia's Radio Mogadishu said Thursday.

The radio broadcast, monitored in Nairobi, said the U.S. planes were involved in 'a continous airlift' of arms needed by Somalia to defend its borders against an Ethiopian invasion. Diplomats in Nairobi said the aid includes radar and ground-to-air missiles.

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The United States agreed to the aid package late last month after Somali President Siad Barre declared a state of emergency along the east African nation's Ogaden border region, the radio said.

Somalia's western borders have been under virtual constant attack by Ethiopian troops and Somali rebels since July 1.

In March, Barre met with President Reagan in Washington to ask for more arms to defend his country against a feared invasion by Ethiopia.

U.S. approval of Barre's request was delayed until last month when the situation along the border deteriorated. Somalia still has not paid the United States for previous arms purchases.

The United States maintains a large naval base at the Somali port of Berbera at the entrance to the Red Sea that was built by the Soviet Union in the early 1970's when it had close ties with Somalia.

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Somalia has claimed in the past that increased U.S. military aid was part of the agreement for the use of the facilities at Berbera.

Radio Kulmis, the voice of the Democratic Somali Salvation Front guerrillas fighting alongside the Ethiopians, said in a broadcast from Ethiopia that U.S., Egyptian, West German and Pakistani military advisers were helping Somali troops in the Ogaden desert.

The rebel broadcast, charging that the foreign advisers were actually manning some equipment in the field, warned foreign countries not to interfere in what it termed 'the internal affairs of Somalia'.

Both Ethiopia and Somalia have made claims of victory in the fighting which has recently diminished from a highpoint in mid-July. Casualties on both sides have been estimated by diplomats to run into several hundred killed or wounded.

The rebels claim to occupy large chunks of Somali territory but the government has denied the claims.

Ethiopia and Somalia fought a war over the Ogaden that ended in 1980 with a crushing defeat of Somalia by a combined Cuban and Ethiopian force. Somalia claims the Ethiopian-ruled Ogaden regions because it is mostly populated by ethnic Somali nomads.

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