A high Somali official sharply criticized the United States yesterday for failing to carry out a plan to provide the East African country with about $15 million in defensive weapons.
Abdikasim Hassan, the first cabinet minister from Somalia to visit the United States since Somalia's defeat in the Ogaden war last spring, said in an interview that he had "good, frank, friendly talks" on the arms issue at the State Department this week. He added, however, that he was "very disappointed" Washington still refused to supply the weapons
"The U.S. position is to wait and see, but we don't know what it is waiting to see," he said.
The arms proposal has been an onagain, off-again thing for more than a year and a half. President Carter first decided to supply the defensive weapons in July 1977 in the light of a vast increase in Soviet arms and Cuban troops in neighboring Ethiopia, formerly a close U.S. ally.
The plan was shelved, however, when Somali forces invaded Ethiopia's Ogaden region later that year in a resurgence of hostilities over the longcontested border between the two countries. The administration revived the plan last June after Somalia cooled its relations with Moscow as a result of Ethiopia's victory in the Ogaden with the aid of Soviet arms and more than 15,000 Cuban troops.
The administration delayed again when Ethiopia threatened to break relations if the arms were provided.
The visit of Hassan, who is minister of sports and youth but admitted he was carrying out "politics" for President Mohammed Siad Barre in Washington, was the highest-level effort yet by Somalia to get the arms pipeline opened.
Hassan declined to say what action he would recommend to Siad Barre, but he added that the country could not "sit and wait" while Cuban-piloted, Soviet-built fighters bomb Somalia as a low-key guerrilla war continues in the Ogaden.
He said Somali villages have been bombed 151 times. Although he could not provide figures on casualties, he maintained that the raids were part of a Soviet-Cuban effort "to overthrow the Siad Barre government."