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US Ambassador Optimistic About Somali Reconciliation Conference

The US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, says that despite the violence in Mogadishu, he is optimistic that a successful national reconciliation conference can take place in Somalia.

“The question is what is the agenda for it. The conference is set and I believe it will take place. There are still some issues of financing. But I do think the Transitional Federal Government is committed to it and will carry it out. We understand the that Transitional Federal Government authorities and particularly the independent National Reconciliation Commission want the agenda to focus on power-sharing and the road map for 2009, including focus on the constitutional drafting process and how the elections will be carried out. That is a reasonable agenda and it is one around which all Somalis should be able to rally,” he said

Ambassador Ranneberger called the recent fighting in Mogadishu “horrendous,” noting that the United States from the outset urged the fighting be stopped. He says the United States is contributing aid to those displaced through the World Food Program, the Red Cross and other relief agencies. He said the fighting was clearly a setback, but it has not destroyed the possibilities for peace.

“I believe the Somali people are strongly committed to achieving peace. They have seen decades of war and chaos and I think they want to see a peaceful situation led by a government that is inclusive, fair and transparent. I think the National Reconciliation Congress will be a very important step forward in achieving that, so I would say that we are optimistic that Somalis will stay on the right path to achieve this and I would say that the prospects are reasonable and that they will be successful,” he said.

The U.S. Ambassador says he has seen some recent promising political developments in Somalia.

“Transitional Federal Government) President Yusuf recently held a meeting with Hawiye elders and we have been in touched with them as well and we have encouraged both sides to continue those discussions in a very open and frank spirit. So that is exactly the king of dialogue that we have been calling for and advocating. The only thing that we have said – and we agree with the Transitional Federal Government in this – the dialogue should be open to everyone who rejects violence and extremism. And I have been assured by the Hawiye leaders that they do reject violence and extremism and so we are hoping that this dialogue will lay the basis for a constructive National Reconciliation Congress,” he said.

Ambassador Ranneberger says now that the fighting has stopped in Mogadishu there is a renewed opportunity to have a political dialogue that will lead to stability, security and a permanent end to the violence.