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PEACE TALKS TO RESUME IN KHARTOUM

 

Mogadishu, 29 August (AKI) - Somalia's transitional government and Islamists who control the capital Mogadishu are scheduled to hold peace talks on Wednesday in Khartoum. The talks, originally slated for 15 August were called off when both sides cited internal organisational problems. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) which accuses the transitional government based in the city of Baidoa of plotting an offensive on Mogadishu, said its leader, Sheikh Ahmad Sherif, would attend the Khartoum talks.

Wednesday's meeting will be the second time the two sides have held talks in the Sudanese capital. The first meeting took place on 22 June and was presided by Arab League president, Amr Moussa.

The UIC has denounced the presence in Baidoa of Ethiopian troops which it says could be used by the transitional government in an attack on Mogadishu. According to some reports, Ugandan troops have also taken up postions in Baidoa, a development which the UIC has also condemned.

According to a report published on Tuesday by the Somali-daily Qaran, leaders of the transitional government, President Abdullahi Yusuf, and Prime Minister Mohammed Gedi have ordered the training of hundreds of troops in preparation for an attack on Mogadishu.

Uganda, Ethiopia call for emergency summit on war-ravaged Somalia


The leaders of Ugandan and Ethiopian governments have called for an emergency summit to tackle the escalating violence and mayhem in war-raged Somalia.

"We should have an urgent regional summit so that we can appraise the issue of Somalia," said President Yoweri Museveni at a news conference after meeting visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at State House in Kampala on Monday.

"It will be very helpful if we hold an urgent meeting to discuss Somalia," echoed Zenawi, who is on a two- day working visit here.

Museveni reiterated his earlier stance on an emergency Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit to tackle violence and mayhem in Somalia.

IGAD is a regional bloc that that brings together seven countries, which include Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan. Kenya is currently the chair of the regional body.

Somalia's peace talks between the transitional federal government and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a militia group which now controls much of the capital Mogadishu and its adjacent towns are in danger of collapsing due to intermittent clashes.

The Somali government, which was established in 2004, has so far not been able to assert its authority in Somalia except in Baidoa where it is temporarily based. PEACE KEEPERS A MUST

The Ugandan cabinet has already approved of sending Ugandan troops to Somalia, a decision to be discussed by Parliament before the soldiers could leave for Somalia.

"We shall be sending two battalions to Somalia once parliament approves the deployment," said Museveni.

He said during the emergency meeting, the member countries should be able to give a clear mandate to the peacekeeping mission.

"We want to be part of the solution and not the problem in the country," Museveni said, referring to Somalia's decline of foreign military presence.

Uganda and Sudan were authorized by IGAD to send peacekeeping troops to Somalia.

Museveni told a visiting Eritrean envoy last week that a peacekeeping force is needed to help set up an army in Somalia, with the intention of ensuring security and prepare for elections thereafter.

The African Union authorized IGAD to send peacekeepers to Somalia but Somalia's opposition to deploying troops from neighboring Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya has been fierce.

Some warlords have threatened to attack peacekeepers from those countries, accusing them of having geopolitical interests in Somalia that will undermine the neutrality of the mission.

Moses Wetangula, the Kenyan deputy minister of foreign affairs recently told reporters in Nairobi that African peace support troops were to be deployed to Somalia but did not give a time frame of the deployment.

Earlier attempts to send a peacekeeping force to Somalia did not take off because of disagreement among the Somalis.

Prime Minister Zenawi clarified that no Ethiopian armed soldiers have set foot in Somalia, refuting the reports that the country has already sent its troops into Somalia.

"At this stage we do not have any troops in Somalia. We only send trainers on the request of the government there," said Zenawi.

He said he shared the same views as Uganda of deploying peacekeepers in Somalia.

Somalia was plunged into lawlessness in 1991 after the ousting of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre and the nation of some 10 million was then divided into a patchwork of chiefdoms governed by unruly warlords.

President Museveni and Prime Minister Zenawi said the Somalia problem can only solved politically and not militarily.

"The transitional federal government should take the center stage and those who feel left out should negotiate," said Zenawi.

World donors ready to rebuild Somalia after peace


STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - International donors on Tuesday said they are ready to help rebuild Somalia, but only if the African nation's interim government can agree to share power with Islamists and end 15 years of fighting.

The Islamists and the Ethiopian-backed interim government were in Khartoum on Tuesday for a second round of talks due later this week to try and defuse tensions between the two sides vying for authority in the lawless country.

The Islamists' rapid rise and seizure of a strategic swathe of the Horn of Africa nation including the capital Mogadishu has threatened the internationally backed government's narrow authority.

At Tuesday's gathering in Stockholm of the International Contact Group on Somalia, representatives said they were ready to hold a formal donors' meeting in Rome, led by Sweden and Italy. Still, they sounded a cautious note.

"It will happen when there is a legitimate and legal transition government to deal with," Swedish State Secretary Annika Soder said on the sidelines of the meeting.

"Unfortunately, our judgement is that there isn't one any longer as the transition institutions, and particularly the transition government, have been seriously weakened and the Islamic courts in Mogadishu have broad and deep public support."

Soder said the Contact Group wanted to send "a strong signal for support for the dialogue in Khartoum", which she said was the only obvious path toward solving a problem that many worry could lead to a regional conflict.

She did not give any information on how much money was on the table for reconstruction or how it would be distributed.

But Soder said the contact group, which includes African nations, the United States, Europe, the United Nations and the Arab League, believes any solution would need to involve some kind of power-sharing agreement between the warring sides.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since 1991 when warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then began fighting each other for control of the nation of 10 million.

This government is the 14th shot at imposing central rule since then, and many fear it could go the way of the others.

Somalia: Defense Minister Blames IGAD for Unnecessary Military Intervention Planning


Is Somalia really in need of foreign military intervention after 11 years? This is the question senior Somali federal government officials are debating about.

Abdulahi yusuf, somalia's president, is believed to have the desperate desire of securing his Ethiopian backed government with only military intervention (African troops, who are financially incapable of having the mission done). But what if president Yusuf's defense minister opposes any foreign intervention?

In an interview by Shabelle Radio in Mogadishu, Somalia's defense minister Barre Hirale said that he had no faith in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) over what he described its mediator imitation in the Somali affairs.

"I don't believe IGAD has the proper solution for the tense situation in Somalia, except an African military solution that it intends to enforce at this inappropriate time. And as a defense minister, I don't believe Somalia needs foreign forces right now", said Barre Hirale, who is also in control of Lower Jubba regional town of Kismayu in southern Somalia.

Barre Hirale, a member of the newly appointed ministers, stated that training and financing the Somali national forces would be better than 2000 African forces sent to Somalia.

He blamed Uganda and Ethiopia, member states of IGAD, for already posting number of their military forces in parts of Somalia.

Mr. Hirale indicted he was pretty much optimistic about the reconciliation conference in Sudan between the Somali interim shaky government, which is hardly in control of Somalia and the more powerful Islamists who are in control of most parts of the country including the capital city Mogadishu.

The Khartoum meeting is anticipated to occur on Wednesday August 30th.

The Somali parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Adam leading government delegation and Islamists' executive council leader Sheik Sharif Ahmed accompanied by Islamist delegation have already made themselves present at the negotiating table in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.


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