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Next Phase of Somali Peace Talks Postponed Indefinitely - 2004-05-06


The slow-moving Somalia peace talks, often marred by walkouts, suffered a further setback when the next phase of talks was postponed indefinitely. Mediators blame logistical problems for the delay.

The Somalia peace process has been underway for more than a year-and-a-half. Marked by in-fighting, dramatic walkouts by warlords, and other delays, it has produced a draft charter on the form of the future government, but few specifics.

But Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who helps mediate the talks, dismissed speculation that the peace process is falling apart or that the seven African countries sponsoring the talks and foreign donors have withdrawn their support.

"We pledge ownership of this process as belonging properly to the Somali people," he said. "But I think we have a role as a region and the role is to stand together, which is what we are doing today."

Mr. Musyoka urged foreign donors not to give up on the process. The cost of keeping the negotiators in Nairobi is far exceeding available funds and the process is virtually bankrupt.

He said the next stage of the process, which was to open Thursday, was intended to lead to the naming of Somalia's transitional government. It was to be attended by a delegation of the elders of Somali communities who would have a voice in naming the new government.

But at the opening ceremony, Mr. Musyoka announced the next stage of the talks is being postponed. "Indeed, it was my hope that once we meet today, we would be able to move expeditiously to launch the third and the final phase," he said. "But as you will, I am sure, gather, it has not been possible to bring in all the traditional leaders in time, and, indeed, other attendant logistic problems."

Mr. Musyoka would not say when the peace process would resume.

The peace talks are aimed at ending more than a decade of civil war in Somalia and give a government to a country, which is, in effect, running without one.

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