Somalia on alert for Bush visit Clampdown in Somalia for Bush

MOGADISHU (Reuter) - American troops searched vehicles in the Somali capital for weapons and tightened their grip on the airport yesterday in a clampdown on gun rule before President George Bush arrives today. They also said weapons would be banished from today from the southern port of Kismayu and took control of a key road bridge near Mogadishu which clan factions have fought over.

Military police stopped vehicles at checkpoints in the city centre. At the airport, where Mr Bush will land, soldiers set up two sand-bagged machine-gun posts and positioned an armoured assault vehicle outside the main gates. Marines and US Air Force security troops provided extra armed cover from the roof of the terminal building.

'We are taking every precaution needed to ensure that this is a safe and successful visit for our Commander-in-Chief,' said a US military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Ritter.

In another development, a United Nations official said Mogadishu's two rival warlords, Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, had both agreed to attend a UN conference next week on paving the way to peace.

Shootings and lootings are still common in the capital, despite a peace deal last week between the city's two main warlords and the presence of the US-led humanitarian intervention force in Somalia. But many Somalis feel grateful to the US for sending the bulk of the force. A Somali car toured south Mogadishu yesterday with a loudspeaker blaring out the message: 'Welcome tomorrow to President Bush.'

(Photograph omitted)