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Djibouti Conference

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UN Concerned Over Somalis' Arrests

The U.N. human rights expert on Somalia expressed concern Tuesday over the arrest of community leaders traveling to a peace conference in neighboring Djibouti.

Mona Rishmawi called on faction leaders and heads of regional administrations to ``respect the wish of the Somali people to bring an end to the hostilities in Somalia and to re-establish peace and harmony.''

Somalia has been without a central government since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted, and the country descended into chaos and clan-based fiefdoms.

The leader of northwestern Somaliland, President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, and Col. Abdullahi Yussuf, who heads the regional administration in northeastern Puntland, both oppose the peace conference underway in neighboring Djibouti.

The conference, which aims to establish an interim administration for Somalia, began May 2. Earlier this month, Egal arrested 19 clan elders and military officials from Puntland, who were traveling to the Djibouti conference against the wishes of Col. Yussuf.

``This unusual cooperation between the two rival administrations of Puntland and Somaliland against the peace process causes much concern,'' Rishmawi said in a statement.

She noted reports of earlier repression of supporters of the peace conference in both regions.



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