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Somali Peace Talks Resume After Two-Month Delay


Peace talks between leaders of Somalia's interim government and the Islamist group that controls the capital, have resumed in Sudan. Both sides expressed a desire to put an end to violence that has divided the nation.

The Arab League is hosting the talks in the Sudanese capital. The two sides last met in late June, when they signed a mutual recognition pact.

The leader of the Somali government delegation, parliament speaker Sharif Hassan, said he hoped for a resolution following the current round of talks.

"Our aim to come here and be an effective partner in this second round of the meeting regarding Somalia is to make further progress on the basis of the agreements signed here on the 22nd of June," he said. "We are brothers. We can achieve a lot. And we want to focus entirely on the ways and means to take Somalia out of its current debacle."

The leader of the Islamist delegation, Ibrahim Hassan Adou, warned that the presence of foreign troops in Somalia could re-ignite civil war, referring to the alleged presence of Ethiopian troops to support the interim government.

"We would like to reaffirm our commitment to peace and good neighborhood," he said. "We are not a threat to any of our neighbors, despite some accusations to the contrary by some of these neighbors trying to find pretexts to destabilize Somalia. Foreign interference and the presence of foreign forces in Somali soil, some of which are already there, is a recipe for another civil war, instead of the pursuit for reconciliation and reconstruction."

Ethiopia has professed its support of the internationally-backed interim Somali government, but denies sending troops to Somalia.

Somali government leaders have accused Eritrea of sending arms to back the Islamists.

Observers have cautioned that long-running tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea might escalate into a full-blown war, with Somalia as a battleground.

The largely ineffectual Somali interim government came to power in 2004, after 13 years of anarchy that began when warlords toppled Dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

The talks in Khartoum are to continue through the coming week.