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Somalia on eve of long-awaited reconciliation conference
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09:54, July 14, 2007

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Somalia looks set to hold the long- awaited national reconciliation conference on Sunday amid threats of insecurity and disruption from insurgents.

Organizers of the twice-postponed conference are optimistic it will be held on schedule, but observers warn that little will be achieved unless problems over representation and ongoing violence are first resolved.

Despite escalating insurgent violence in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the country''s transitional government said the conference will begin on Sunday with an aim to end the country''s 16-year-old civil war.

"We are moving as planned and the conference will begin on July 15," said Abdulkadir Walayo, media adviser to the National Governance and Reconciliation Commission (NGRC), which is organizing the conference.

"The conference will be a success and all who need to be there, will be there. Contacts are under way with the opposition. The early stages of the conference will be about forgiveness and clan reconciliation."

Insecurity in the capital delayed the reconciliation talks in April and then again in May, forcing the conference organizers to reduce the number of invited delegates from 3,000 to 1,300.

Last month, the organizers again delayed the talks for a third time, saying the reconciliation process lacked international funding and the venue of the conference, a dilapidated and bullet- scared former police compound, had not been refurbished.

Regional experts say the conference will probably be a combination of political deal-making, cease-fire talks and a massive talk-show.

"Forgiveness in our culture is very important," Hussein Sheik Ahmed, an influential clan elder in Mogadishu, the capital, said this week.
"If there is no reconciliation and public forgiveness, people will not trust each other. Without it, Somalia can''t put the years of wrongdoing behind it."

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