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Somalia Peace Talks Collapse


Peace talks in Khartoum between Somalia's transitional government and Islamists who control much of the country have collapsed, raising fears of an impending war in the anarchic nation.

The Somali government and Islamists did not meet, face to face, during their three days in Sudan. The Islamist delegation refused to meet with government rivals until Ethiopian troops pull out of Somalia.

Ethiopia's presence in the embattled nation is a hotly contested issue.

Islamists accuse neighboring Ethiopia of sending troops into Somalia to bolster the struggling government army.

The Somali government admits a few Ethiopian soldiers have entered the nation, but characterizes them as military trainers, rather than fighters.

The head of the Islamic delegation, Ibrahim Hassan Addou, told VOA the talks collapsed because of the debate over Ethiopia's presence in Somalia.

"Ethiopia has declared war and invaded Somalia," said Addou. "Before the talks, we want a fact-finding mission to go over there and see what Ethiopia is doing right now. It's very important, because it's an invasion, as we all know, and the world is not focusing on that issue."

Addou told VOA that the talks will be postponed until an unspecified later date.

The two sides had also squabbled over the question of who should co-chair the meeting.

The Arab League and Kenya, which is current president of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, were set to co-chair. But the Somali government accused the Arab League of favoring the Islamists.

The Islamic courts, in turn, suggested that Kenya supports the presence of foreign troops in Somalia.

Diplomats at the talks expressed frustration during the three-day delay. Some suggested that war in Somalia appears imminent.

Eritrean and Ethiopian forces are both present in Somalia. Observers fear the start of a proxy war between long-time rivals, with Somalia as the battleground.

The Islamic Courts seized much of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu, in June. They have continued to expand their territory and have wide popular support.

The nation has been without a functioning government since 1991, when warlords toppled dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre.

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