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Somali Factions Sign Cease-Fire Deal

Twenty-two Somali factions signed a cease-fire Sunday at peace talks in Kenya. The cessation of hostilities is supposed to last for the duration of the talks.

Kenya's special envoy for Somalia, Elijah Mwangale, described the signing of a temporary cease-fire in Somalia as a landmark achievement. He said prospects for peace in Somalia are more evident than ever before.

Somalia's transitional government and faction leaders agreed to cease all hostilities for the duration of the talks, which could last several months. There will be mechanisms to monitor and enforce the cease-fire.

The Somali groups also promised to work toward establishment of a federal government - something Somalia has been without for more than a decade - and to improve the safety of aid workers, and to fight all forms of terrorism.

The peace talks opened in the Kenyan town of Eldoret almost two weeks ago. It is the 16th attempt to bring peace to Somalia since its central government collapsed in 1991.

At a previous round of talks in Djibouti in 2000, a transitional government was set up. But it has not even managed to establish control over the whole of the capital city, Mogadishu. Faction leaders refuse to accept its status as the national government, and have vowed to overthrow it.

At earlier Somali peace conferences, there were difficulties getting all of the relevant parties to attend. This time, intense efforts have been made to get everyone on board. As a result, turnout has been described as good.

There is renewed international interest in bringing an end to the anarchy in Somalia, particularly because of fears that it could become a haven for terrorist groups. The 350 Somali delegates are under pressure from the international community to make real progress this time around.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by representatives from the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, which is organizing the peace talks, as well as representatives from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the Arab League and Egypt.