Ethiopia's prime minister says his country has been forced into war to protect itself against Islamic militants in neighboring Somalia.
Meles Zenawi's address on national television came after Ethiopian officials confirmed the military has launched airstrikes against Islamist-held positions in Somalia.
The prime minister says Ethiopian forces are in Somalia to "protect the sovereignty of the nation" and to "blunt attacks" by Islamist fighters. He said Ethiopian forces will leave Somalia as soon as the mission ends. He did not elaborate.
Ethiopia supports Somalia's interim government against the Islamic Courts which now control most of the country. Meles said on Sunday he supports negotiations between Somalia's interim government and the Islamic Courts to create a joint administration.
Since Tuesday, Ethiopian and Islamist forces claim fighting has killed hundreds of people. The tally has not been independently confirmed.
On Sunday, witnesses in central and northern Somalia reported warplanes bombarding Islamist positions and Ethiopian ground troops exchanging mortar fire with Islamist forces.
On Saturday, Somalia's Islamist defense chief, Yusuf Mohamed Siad asked for Muslims worldwide to join a "holy war" against the Ethiopian forces. The Islamists have vowed to drive Ethiopian soldiers from Somalia.