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Home >> World
UPDATED: 07:25, July 20, 2006
Somalia government agrees to hold talks with Islamists
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Somalia's weak transitional government has yielded to pressure from the international community and agreed to attend peace talks with the Islamic militia controlling most of the country's south, official said on Wednesday.

Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said the UN-backed transitional government has reversed its earlier stance and would participate in the next round of talks in Khartoum.

"It's true the government has reversed its earlier decision not to participate in the talks. The talks are the last hope and chance for peace and stability," Dinari told Xinhua by telephone from Baidoa in southern Somalia, the current seat of the interim government.

The transitional government earlier had said it would boycott the peace talks scheduled for July 22 in Khartoum, Sudan, saying the militants that have seized control of most of the country's south massacred civilians and wants to topple the government.

However, the Islamic Courts sent negotiators to Khartoum despite the boycott by the government, which was formed with the help of the United Nations but wields no real power outside its base in Baidoa, 250 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.

The peace talks are seen as a move toward international recognition for the Islamic militia, which the United States accuses of harboring al-Qaida and wanting to impose a Taliban- style theocracy.

According to Dinari, the government also welcomed efforts by the International Contact Group (ICG) to create an inclusive dialogue to end the conflict in the Horn of Africa country.

"We welcome the call by the Contact Group, and agree that through dialogue we can achieve peace," Dinari said.

The international group trying to coordinate a strategy for helping the Horn of Africa nation strengthens state institutions.

Dinari said the government had all along "wanted a much broader dialogue, particularly one that includes women's groups and civil society".

The Contact Group called on Somali parties "to resume immediately and without any preconditions the talks launched and facilitated by the League of Arab States in Khartoum on June 22."

The rapid rise of Somalia's Islamic militias has prompted a flurry of diplomatic efforts to stabilize the troubled country in the Horn of Africa.

Early this month, the African Union and Western diplomats decided to send officials to Somalia to assess the possibility of deploying a peacekeeping force to a country ripped apart by 15 years of anarchy.

That has the backing of President Abdullahi Yusuf, head of Somalia's virtually powerless transitional government, who has petitioned the international community for speedy intervention.

Regional powers support intervention out of fear of an Islamic state on their doorsteps, while Western governments are worried the country could become a haven for terrorists.

Source: Xinhua

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