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Somali rivals may resume talks November 15
Cat : Peace And Security
Date : 2006-11-02 14:26:31                      Reader : 309

Also US, EU, and UN must keep their noses out, as Somalies are able to settle their crises peacefully.

 

Peace And Security

Google news 2/11/2006

Somali rivals may resume talks November 15

By Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somalia's government and rival Islamists are considering holding new talks in mid-November after negotiations stalled in Sudan, heightening fears of a Horn of Africa war, diplomats said on Thursday.

"I hear they are aiming for November 15 but given what has happened this week, I think it's premature," a diplomatic source in Nairobi told Reuters.

A third round of talks between President Abdullahi Yusuf's interim government and the Mogadishu-based Islamist movement had been scheduled to take place in Khartoum this week.

But the delegations failed to meet face-to-face, with the Islamists objecting to Ethiopian troops they say have entered Somalia in substantial numbers.

The Islamists called for an international fact-finding mission to be sent to Somalia to verify the Ethiopian presence.

But even as talk increased of war on both sides, delegations were considering coming back in two weeks, diplomats reported. "I hear they've been adjourned to November 15," one said.

War would be disastrous for the already desperately poor and conflict-ravaged Horn of Africa. Somalia itself has been mired in anarchy since the 1991 ouster of a dictator by warlords.

"The international community needs to act fast and clearly to avoid a disastrous war that could turn the whole region into an Iraq-style situation," another Western diplomat who tracks Somalia closely told Reuters. "We should look for the tiniest shred of hope to avoid this prospect."

With Eritrea accused of arming the Islamists, and Ethiopia openly backing the government, analysts say conflict in Somalia would quickly turn into a regional conflict. Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a war in 1998-2000 and remain bitter foes.

War in Somalia may also draw in foreign Muslim radicals on the Islamists' side, analysts say, and would divert resources urgently needed for humanitarian aid and social services.

POSTURING?

The postponement of talks in Khartoum brought the clearest warnings yet from both sides that war may be in the offing.

And military preparations have gathered pace on the ground.

Islamist sources said on Thursday the movement was sending more fighters to the flashpoint town of Buur Hakaba, between the government's headquarters in Baidoa town and the Islamists' base in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Both sides have tested guns.

"Given the situation on the ground, the proximity of the forces and the artillery duels of the last few days, an escalation is likely," regional analyst Matt Bryden said.

"It could be hours, it could be days, it could be weeks."

Others, however, felt that maybe the heightened war talk was bluffing to strengthen bargaining positions.

"How real is the wish of the two parties to go into war? That still has to be demonstrated," the western diplomat said.

"The fact that the talks didn't completely collapse but were sort of re-scheduled points to the fact that we are still on a heavy posturing position."

Borne out of sharia courts in Mogadishu, the Islamist movement took the capital and a swathe of south Somalia in June. That dented the Yusuf government's aspirations to restore central rule for the first time since 1991.

The government is backed by international institutions like the African Union, United Nations and east African body IGAD.

Perhaps more significantly, it has support from Horn of Africa regional power Ethiopia, which acknowledges sending hundreds of armed military trainers to Baidoa.

 


 
 
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