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Somali Islamists Reject Reconciliation Talks


Leaders of Somalia's Islamist movement have rejected a government invitation to attend peace talks in Mogadishu.

Organizers of the peace conference extended the invitation on Wednesday, more than a week after the talks opened in the Somali capital.

Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a top leader in the Islamic Courts Union, quickly rejected the proposal. The Associated Press quotes him as saying Islamists do not recognize the interim Somali government or the peace conference organizers.

A London-based online Arabic newspaper quotes Ahmed as saying no peace talks can be held as long as Ethiopian troops are on Somali soil.

The Ethiopians helped the Somali government oust the rival Islamist movement from power in Mogadishu and other Somali cities late last year.

Since then, insurgents have kept up a steady stream of attacks against Ethiopian and government targets. The attacks and counter-attacks have killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee Mogadishu.

International donors had lobbied the government to include moderate Islamists in the national reconcilation conference. The government previously resisted the idea, saying the Islamist leaders were welcome only as representatives of their clans.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991.

Some information for this report was provided by AP .

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