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Somali PM Appeals to Insurgents to Join Peace Efforts


Somalia's Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein is appealing to insurgent Islamists to join the peace deal signed by the transitional government and some moderate opposition groups last month in Djibouti. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports Mr. Hussein condemned Somalia's uncontrolled violence, which since the accord was signed has claimed the lives of aid workers, a journalist, and a senior U.N. official.

Amid anarchy in large parts of Mogadishu, and a joint Somali-Ethiopian military force waging a counter-insurgency offensive, Somalia's interim prime minister is urging hardline Islamists to end their campaign of violence.

Speaking to reporters at the end of a three-day visit to the Ethiopian capital, Nur Hassan Hussein called on the militant Al-Shabab group to seize the opportunity created by last month's U.N.-brokered peace agreement.

"The agreement signed in Djibouti is the key and opens the door to peace so anyone can join, any organization opposing the government of today, there is a window of opportunity to join," Hussein said.

Many Somalis and political analysts say the Djibouti accord has been discredited by violence from groups like al-Shabab, which is committed to overthrowing the Ethiopian-backed transitional government and establishing Islamic rule. But Prime Minister Hussein argued that the agreement has provided a flicker of hope by bolstering the more moderate Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, which signed the June 9 accord.

"I think today the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia are also trying their best to enlarge their constituency, so together the parties signing this agreement have a good opportunity to attract others," he said. "But if, like Al Shabab, they are rejecting the peace, the people, hoping the situation of 18 years ending and a new page being started, that will help the parties signing the agreement."

Mr. Hussein condemned the killing, kidnapping and harassment of humanitarian aid workers, in particular the shooting death of the head of the United Nations Development Program office. UNDP chief Osman Ali Ahmed was gunned down at close range Sunday evening as he returned home from evening prayers at a mosque in Mogadishu.

The United Nations has described Somalia as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

One million Somalis, or more than 10 percent of the population, are living as internal refugees, and the group Doctors Without Borders says malnutrition in the horn of Africa country has exceeded emergency rates for a year.

Ethiopian troops entered Somalia 20 months ago to help the interim government fight an Islamist movement that was threatening to take over the country.

The Mogadishu-based Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization estimates more than 2,100 Somali civilians have been killed this year, bringing the civilian death toll to 8,600 since early last year.

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