Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Saturday, August 23, 2003

New Somali Government to be Formed Soon: Envoy

The ongoing Somali National Reconciliation Conference is at its critical stage and a new government is expected to be formed very soon, Kenyan envoy to Somalia told Xinhua on Friday.


The ongoing Somali National Reconciliation Conference is at its critical stage and a new government is expected to be formed very soon, Kenyan envoy to Somalia told Xinhua on Friday.

"We are hopeful a new government will be formed very soon," said Muhammad Affey. "We have resolved most of the issues that were stumbling block to the peace process."

In an interview, Affey told Xinhua that the Somali peace talks "are on course and discussions on the charter will be completed over the weekend."

"We are still in the process of reconciling the recommendations of the parliament and those of the cabinet and once we come up with a unified position, we will be able to form a new government," Affey said, but declining to give specific date.

The envoy, who traveled to the Somali capital Mogadishu last week, said he had urged President of Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG) Abdiqassim Salad Hassan to return to peace talks being held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

According to him, a formal request was made in an official message from the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"I had a warm reception and we had a very fruitful discussion. We are waiting for a formal response from the TNG any moment from now," he said.

Although the envoy did not say whether the TNG would return to the talks or not, he said. "The president told me that he would consult his parliament and cabinet before making any decisions."

The talks on Somalia sponsored by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) began in October 2002in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret, and were moved to the capital, Nairobi, in February this year.

Last month, Salad Hassan walked out of the peace talks, saying they were leading toward the "dismemberment" of Somalia.

Affey said the IGAD technical committee, which is steering the talks, is working round the clock to convince those leaders who are absent to return to the talks.

Among those absent from the talks are the president of the TNG, prominent Mogadishu-based faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow, and the leader of the Kismayo-based Juba Valley Alliance, Col. Barre Adan Hirale.

But now, Affey said "we are hopeful that all the warlords will return to the peace talks since all of their concerns have been addressed."

Since last October, the Somali peace talks, which had been expected to end two months ago, have made little headway with delegates disagreeing on the number of members of parliament to be chosen.

The mandate of the three-year old TNG expired on Aug. 13 and Salat announced that his government would not stand down until a new government and a parliament were formed.

The former Somali prime minister Hassan Abshir, whom he sacked earlier last week, accused Salat of trying to destroy the peace process, in order to prolong his stay in office.

The Somali parties have tentatively agreed to set up a 351-member parliament, comprising representatives from four big clans and one smaller clan.

The future Somali parliament will elect a speaker who will preside over the election of a transitional president.

The African Union has hinted at a possibility of deploying peacekeeping mission to Somalia to enforce a peace deal it hopes to reach soon in the east African country.

On Oct. 3, 1993, 19 US rangers and other UN forces were killed in a Mogadishu battle that left at least 200 Somalis dead.

UN troops pulled out of the country in 1995.

Somalia has been virtually without a government for more than a decade following the ousting of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

Warlords from the main clans have jostled for power ever since and have sliced the country into fiefdoms. (Xinhua)

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