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Somali Reconcilation Talks Continue

U.N.-sponsored reconcilation talks for Somalia continued in Djibouti Monday despite an envoy's announcement that the conference had failed.

VOA's Somali service reports that the Somali government and opposition leaders in exile are working on a joint statement.

It says the sides remain divided on how to refer to Ethiopian troops who are in Somalia to support the interim government. The government says the troops are in Somalia legally. The opposition rejects that term.

The sides have still not held face-to-face talks and are negotiating through U.N. diplomats.

Late on Sunday, the chief U.N. envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said the talks had failed, and announced that he was terminating the conference.

Two rounds of talks have not produced any breakthroughs toward peace in Somalia, where Islamist-led insurgents are trying to topple the government.

Violence in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killed at least 12 people on Sunday. Witnesses say most were civilians killed in an artillery battle between insurgents and Ethiopian-backed government troops.

The opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia backs the insurgency. The Eritrean-based group has demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops as a condition for holding talks with the government.

Some hard-liners in the group are opposed to the Djibouti talks. The Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab is boycotting the talks altogether.

The insurgency has blocked the Somali interim government from asserting control over the country. Somalia has not had a stable central government in 17 years.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.