Peace Talks Open; Factions Lean Toward Creating Regional Authorities
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) _ A new round of Somali peace talks opened today with faction leaders still at odds over whether to create a national government.
However, they said they were willing to form regional authorities that U.N. officials say are needed for relief and reconstruction efforts to continue.
As he entered Africa Hall, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, self-proclaimed Somali president who claims to represent a coalition of 11 factions, called for a transitional government.
″A national government should come from this meeting,″ Ali Mahdi told reporters, adding that the government would then determine when to hold elections.
But other members of his coalition and his chief rival, warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, said they favored first building regional authorities that could form police forces to help end widespread banditry.
Lansana Kouyate, U.N. special representative to Somalia and chairman of the conference, opened the talks by calling on the 250 invited faction and community leaders to ″give a concrete mechanism to restore regional and national institutions.″
″You have to determine your own fate,″ said Abdulmajid Hussein, minister of external and economic copoperation of Ethiopia, which hosted the talks.
Mohamed Hassan Awali, Aidid’s foreign minister, called for ″some sort of mechanism by which peace, law and order, and public services can be provided.″
″We don’t think there is need for a transitional government,″ he said in an interview Sunday.
Observers say Aidid, whose power base lies in the south, would see his power diluted if he accepted a national administration.
The United Nations and the countries that pledged $142 million over the weekend to help feed and rebuild Somalia this year have told the factions that aid and relief work may be cut if the talks fail.
Somalia has been wracked by famine that was worsened by a civil war that toppled dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in January 1991. More than 350,000 people died last year before a U.S.-led coalition arrived in December to safeguard aid deliveries.