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US Pushes for All-Inclusive Somali Talks

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya says the United States is pushing Somalia's transitional government to hold talks with all groups of Somali society to bring peace and stability to the volatile country. Meanwhile, Somalia's parliament ousted the parliamentary speaker, who had held unauthorized talks with the Islamists several months ago. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger told reporters in Nairobi that the $40 million that the U.S. has given Somalia recently for peace and development efforts will not be effective unless Somalia is stable and the government (TFG) reaches out to the people, including the Islamists.

"We are putting a lot of pressure on the TFG for dialogue and outreach," he said. "They need to build unity in their own government, but it is also dialogue with all segments of the population. We have indicated, for example, that someone like Sheikh Sharif, if he wanted to play a positive role, that that should be a possibility. He is a recognized moderate, and a respected figure, and there may be other moderates who were associated with the Islamic Courts who could play a significant role in the future of the country."

Ranneberger says this dialogue and other necessary changes will not happen overnight, and that the United States and others should not, in his words, "write off the efforts of the transitional government."

The U.S. ambassador addressed journalists on recent developments in Somalia, following the ouster of the Islamic Courts Union and U.S. policy towards the volatile nation.

The U.S. recently launched an air strike on a southern Somalia location believed to be a hideout for al-Qaida members.

Ranneberger told reporters he thinks the air strike was successful, despite the fact the three al-Qaida people being targeted by the strike escaped.

"It did achieve its goal," he added. "One part of what we are doing in Somalia is to apprehend preferably, but also obviously kill, foreign terrorists who have perpetrated terrorist attacks against Americans and other people around the world."

Eight people who the U.S. ambassador calls "significant" were killed.

Meanwhile, in Somalia, the transitional parliament voted out its speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, by a vast majority. Lawmakers were upset with Aden primarily, because he held unauthorized peace talks with the Islamic Courts Union last year.