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Somali Parliament Speaker heading to Khartoum for talks


Speaker of the parliament in the transitional federal government base in the provincial town of Baidoa in southwest of Somalia, Shraif Hasssan Sheik Adam is due fly to Khartoum, Sudan on Monday for peace talks with the Islamic Courts.

The trip of the speaker came after the Arab League made contact with the transitional federal government on how they would attend the scheduled peace talks with the Islamists controlling key parts of the country. Islamic Courts had earlier set conditions before attending the talks as long as Ethiopian troops remain in the soil of Somalia territory.

Reports from Baidoa say the three top government officials had discussions over the participation of the meeting in Sudan and lastly agreed that Somali speaker Sharif Hassan with delegations including ministers and MPs should leave for Khartoum for the peace conference sponsored by Arab League-Sudan government.

The talks in Sudan have been delayed for several times after deepening differences between Somaliís interim government and Islamic Courts over the presence of the Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

It is not yet clear whether the Islamists would go to Khartoum talks or not but they seem insisting in their position on they would not sit with government officials until Ethiopia stops nterfering with Somalia. This condition still stands.

Somali Islamists mull limiting food aid to boost local production

An Islamic movement holding sway over much of southern Somalia said it was mulling limiting food aid to help boost local production, as part of an effort to jumpstart the country's economy after 15 years of devastating conflict.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a radical cleric designated a terrorist by the United States for suspected links to Al-Qaeda, said Sunday the increasingly influential movement would take steps against aid agencies whose activities disrupt local production.

"We have been asked to stop aid agencies from bringing food aid into Somalia during harvest periods. We are keen on taking steps, particulary against those groups that derail local productions," Aweys, the head of the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), told a group of local businessmen in Mogadishu.

"We must stop whatever hinders the efforts of the Islamic communities, including their land production," he said, but clarified that the move was not aimed at shutting out aid groups which have played a vital role in helping to provide for impoverished Somalis.

Mogadishu traders, who contributed 130,000 dollars (102,000 euros) to the SICS, complained that humanitarian groups had developed a pattern of delivering supplies during harvest season, cutting into demand for local goods.

"Whenever harvesting starts, we see food brought by agencies and surely (this) makes farmers feel bored," one of them, Mohamoud Abdulkarim Gabeyre, said.

The Islamists, who seized much of southern and central Somalia from US-backed warlords, have been struggling to to restore law and order and while imposing Islamic law Sharia.

They have managed to slash the number of gunmen patrolling the capital and urged civilians to start surrendering their arms.

In recent weeks the Islamists have reopened the seaport and airport in Mogadishu, which were closed for more than a decade, and asked traders to resume using the facilities in a bid to boost Somalia's economy.

The 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre led to the rapid collapse of systems of governance and the local economy in the Horn of Africa nation.

Before the war, export of agricultural and livestock to Asian and Arab nations was the largest source of Somali income, but the two sectors were disrupted by interclan fighting that has spread over the past 15 years.

Instruments of war have gradually replaced sugar, sorghum, corn and fish as the key pillars of the domestic market. The once-vibrant sugar-refining, textile and petroleum-refining industries have been shut down and their machinery looted.

Early this month, the United Nations warned that a severe humanitarian crisis may erupt this year in Somalia, where insecurity could compound crop failures and leave some 3.6 million people in need of urgent aid.

The UN's Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) noted slight improvements in conditions in certain areas of Somalia but said crisis conditions prevailed particularly in the south -- where 1.8 million people are in need of urgent food supplies -- and would persist until at least the end of the year.

The Islamists' growing influence has threatened the authority of the weak transitional government based in the south-central town of Baidoa, which has been rocked infighting and is effectively unable to exert its authority.

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