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UN seeks coordinated world support for peace dialogues in Somalia

 

The United Nations top envoy for Somalia is seeking coordinated international support for peace dialogues in Somalia, which has been wrecked by fighting in the past two months.

In a statement issued in Nairobi on Tuesday, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Somalia Francois Lonseny Fall urged the International Contact Group to consider what additional and better coordinated support the international community might offer to Somalia's Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs).

Fall noted that the situation in Somalia was volatile and asked that the international community to collectively urge the TFIs and the Islamic courts to demonstrate their political will to unveil constructive and meaningful dialogues without preconditions.

Senior officials from Somalia's interim government and its main rival, the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, have left for peace talks in Khartoum, Sudan.

The SCIC has controlled Mogadishu, the capital, since June, and has taken control of much of southeast Somalia.

The long-delayed second round of peace talks is seen as the best chance to break a deadlock in a country that has had no central government since 1991.

Kibaki And Zenawi Hold Talks On Somalia

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi met President Kibaki at State House Nairobi.

Although the agenda of the meeting was not made public, it is believed yesterday's talks centred on the crisis in Somali, given that Kibaki is the current chairman of Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad). Ethiopian troops are in Somalia to defend the transitional government of President Abdulahi Yusuf.

Islamists have seized control of the capital, Mogadishu and key areas of the Horn of Africa country. The Igad-backed government was set up in Nairobi two years ago after protracted negotiations, which saw Kenya spend close to Sh2 billion funding the talks.

When he arrived at 11am, Zenawi inspected a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Kenya Air Force and was later entertained by traditional dancers. The two leaders then proceeded to State House where they held the talks before Zenawi jetted out in the afternoon. With the President to meet Zenawi at the airport, was Foreign Affairs minister, Mr Raphael Tuju, Chief of General Staff General Jeremiah Kianga, the Head of Civil Service Mr Francis Muthaura.

ANALYSIS-Shift on Somalia may make peace harder

NAIROBI, Aug 30 (Reuters) - A demand by the international community for Somalia's interim government and Islamists running Mogadishu to reach a deal to work together may actually make peace harder to achieve, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Moving from its previous blanket support for Somalia's government, the International Contact Group on Somalia said at a meeting in Stockholm on Tuesday aid would come only after the Islamists and the government agreed on a way to share power.

"To gain the confidence of the Somali people and the international community, the (government) and emerging regional administrations alike should clearly articulate their joint aspirations," a communique from Tuesday's meeting said.

By predicating any international support on a consensus between the government and the Islamists, the communique all but dashed hopes for two things the government says it needs to succeed: aid money and the deployment of regional peacekeepers.

And a further weakened government would find it even harder to convince the Islamists, who want Islamic law throughout Somalia, to make the concessions required to reach a consensus.

One African diplomat said the Contact Group's demand put the government's goals even further away.

"I can assure you that if we let down the Somalis at this particular time, then the outcome will not be good for all of us," the diplomat said.

The Islamists control a strategic swathe of south-central Somalia including the capital Mogadishu after defeating U.S.-backed warlords in June.

The fractious Ethiopian-backed government of President Abdullahi Yusuf is holed up in outlying Baidoa and protected against the military superiority of the Islamists by Addis Ababa's threat to "crush" any Islamist attack.

'NEWBORN BABY'

The government and Islamists are due for a long-delayed round of talks in Khartoum this week, under Arab League mediation, to find a way to co-exist in a country mired in anarchy since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

"Our best hopes are that these talks can be talks about real talks, because no one expects them to produce anything," said a diplomat involved with Somalia who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At the Stockholm meeting, Sweden's international development chief Annika Soder went further than the communique, telling reporters the Islamists have "deep public support" and that the government was so weak it had lost its legitimacy.

"It's absolutely not fair to say that and I want to clarify that this government has the support of 80 percent of the population," government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said.

The government is the 14th attempt at establishing central authority in 15 years. None has succeeded yet.

"We are a newborn baby and we need international support," Dinari said.

So far, diplomatic wrangles have left the government exposed as it tries to build a military -- the key to power in a land where the gun rules.

The Islamists are vehemently opposed to the deployment of Ugandan and Sudanese troops backed by the African Union and IGAD, the east African body that shepherded Somalia's peace process in Kenya.

The Contact Group, an initiative spearheaded by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, includes Italy, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, Britain, the United States and the European Union. The African Union, Arab League and United Nations have observer status.

Frazer did not attend Tuesday's meeting in Stockholm.


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