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US Urges Inclusive Dialogue on Somalia's Future


The United States said Friday the situation in Somalia presents a chance for the Somali people to achieve a broad-based, inclusive government. The State Department says the dialogue should include members of the Islamist movement routed from the capital Mogadishu. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Despite the week's violence, the United States is casting the turn of events in Somalia as an historic opportunity for Somalis to achieve a broad based stable government and end the political chaos that has prevailed for 15 years.

A State Department statement, issued after Ethiopian troops and those of the Baidoa-based transitional government entered Mogadishu, framed as essential the effort at national dialogue promised by interim president Abdullahi Yusuf.

It said warlordism and clanism should have no role to play in the future of Somalia. It warned that the quality of the United States' future relationship with the Transitional Federal Institutions, and with all elements of Somali society, will be driven by the degree to which they work to achieve genuine national reconciliation.

In a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said that dialogue has to include members of the Islamic Courts militia movement who controlled the capital and much of the rest of southern Somalia until this week.

"We want to see the Transitional Federal Authorities engage with all the various political actors in the country," said Tom Casey. "And that means, certainly, individuals and groups that supported the Council of Islamic Courts or elements thereof that want to be part of, and want to help develop Somali society and a lasting durable government. We all want to see Somalia finally put an end to the long period of instability and the long period of, really, absence of governance that began with the fall of Siad Barre back in 1991."

Spokesman Casey also said the United States wants to see a formal ceasefire, and the deployment to Somalia as soon as possible of the proposed East African peacekeeping force endorsed by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month.

The force, to be made up of troops from the regional grouping IGAD, was initially intended to shore up the military position of the transitional government in its military confrontation with the Islamic Courts militias.

Casey said the force should retain that mandate but also be tasked to monitor and manage a cease-fire arrangement that would facilitate the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces.

Thus far, only Uganda has publicly committed to contributing troops but the spokesman said contacts are underway with a number of other potential participants including Kenya, which he said was taking a lead role in the process.

Spokesman Casey said the United States would be open to the idea of supporting deployment of the proposed eight thousand member force but did not elaborate.

The written statement said the United States is committed to providing all appropriate humanitarian assistance to respond to what were termed the dire needs of the Somali people.

It also expressed appreciation to Kenya for keeping its borders open to refugee flows from neighboring Somalia.

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