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US Tries to Get All Factions in on Somali Peace Talks - 2002-04-03


Preparations are being made for a Somali reconciliation conference in Kenya later this month. Regional and U.S. peacemakers are working hard to convince all Somali faction leaders to attend the talks.

The Nairobi peace conference, scheduled for the end of April, will be the 15th major conference aimed at restoring peace to Somalia since its government collapsed in 1991.

Organizers say if this conference is going to have any more success than its predecessors, all of Somalia's political players must be brought on board.

In Nairobi, Wednesday, Kenyan Foreign Minister Marsden Madoka opened a meeting of the technical committee charged with organizing the talks. The committee is made up of the three front-line states which border Somalia - Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Mr. Madoka urged the committee to make sure this month's peace talks are all-inclusive. "We have very many political parties. We have many factions. We have the TNG. And we want everybody to be involved and to participate. If any one of those is left out, then I am afraid our next conference will also not be a success. And therefore your task is a massive one, to ensure that we bring everybody on board to see that we finally bring some hope to the Somali people," Mr. Madoka said.

The TNG is the Transitional National Government set up in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in 2000. But the TNG has been unable to extend its rule much beyond the capital. Most of the country is still in the hands of various warlords opposed to it.

The U.S. is attempting to persuade the armed opposition groups to attend the Nairobi conference.

A team of U.S. officials flew to the Somali capital Wednesday to urge Somali leaders to attend the peace talks.

On the two day trip, team leader Zachary Teich will meet with the TNG's President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan and Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah as well as several faction leaders opposed to them.

Mr. Teich told reporters that he wants the groups with whom he is meeting to quote, participate in those talks and to participate constructively.

There is some optimism about this month's conference because the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) faction, which boycotted previous peace talks, has agreed to attend.

The RRA set up an autonomous region, the State of Southwestern Somalia, late last month. It is the third regional administration to be set up in Somalia since it descended into anarchy over a decade ago.

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