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Kenya Calls On US To Show More Support For Somali Peace Talks - 2004-05-14


Kenya's foreign affairs minister has called on the United States to show more support for the long-running Somali peace talks being held in Kenya. He also raised the issue of the United States' yearlong travel advisory against Kenya in a meeting with the U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka said Friday Kenya is looking to the United States to show what he called a keener interest in the Somali peace talks, which have been going on in Kenya for more than a year-and-a-half.

?Believe you me, we can do with some support from Washington,? he said.

Mr. Musyoka said Kenya has absolutely no option but to forge ahead with the Somali peace process for the sake of regional stability, in spite of the many obstacles facing the process.

The Somali peace talks have been characterized by dramatic walkouts of warlords unhappy with the process and other in-fighting.

Mr. Musyoka said the latest drama revolves around the $10-million bill the talks have incurred, and the question of who is going to pay it. He said one Nairobi hotel housing some of the delegates has threatened to expel them within the next few days if its one million dollar bill is not paid.

The Kenyan foreign minister spoke at a joint news conference with U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Charles Snyder, who said the United States will see what it can do to provide more support. Mr. Snyder said he hopes Kenyan diplomats can move the Somali peace process forward, as they have done for the Sudan talks, also in Kenya.

?We're interested in the progress you've made in Somalia. In fact, we're hoping that you managed to get Somalia to, as we diplomats say, the point of ripeness you've gotten Sudan to so that we can get some real progress. But I think you're a little further away. But we're optimistic,? Mr. Snyder said.

During talks Friday, the two officials also discussed the sensitive question of the U.S. travel advisory for Kenya. The latest U.S. advisory refers to what it calls a continuing threat posed by terrorism in East Africa, and says visitors to Kenya should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites.

Foreign Minister Musyoka and other Kenyan officials have repeatedly called for the United States to lift its advisory, saying Kenya is safe for tourists.

Mr. Snyder said the latest warning, issued in December, in his words, has more favorable language than the previous one, and he commended Kenya for cooperating fully with anti-terrorism measures.

?We're looking forward to the point at which we can lift this travel advisory. But for right now, the judgment of the security professionals is that we still need to keep it in place,? Mr. Snyder said. ?Don't forget, the attacks here in Kenya were aimed very specifically at tourists.?

Mr. Snyder did not say when or under exactly what conditions the United States would lift its advisory, which Kenya says has cost it millions of dollars in tourist revenue. The Kenya Tourist Board says tourism is down 50 percent since the advisory was first issued a year ago.

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