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Somali PM Says Reconciliation Conference Still On

Somalia's interim prime minister says a national reconciliation conference scheduled for April 16 in Mogadsihu will take place despite chronic violence in the capital.

In a phone interview with VOA late Wednesday, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said it was possible the starting date for the conference may change.

His comments came as residents of Mogadishu collected bodies from several days of fighting between insurgents and Ethiopian forces that support the Somali interim government. More than 380 civilians were killed in the fighting last week.

Mr. Gedi blamed the violence on figures from the Islamist movement the government chased from power late last year with the help of Ethiopian forces.

The prime minister said the Islamists are attempting to present themselves as clan leaders, but do not represent anyone but themselves.

The United States and other countries have called on Somalia to be inclusive in the people it invites to the reconciliation conference. Diplomats say the government must invite some members of the Islamist movement as well as traditional clan leaders and other members of civil society.

The conference is aimed at stabilizing Somalia after years of anarchy and violence. The Horn of Africa country has not had an effective central government since 1991.