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SOMALIA: Peace talks in Djibouti hit deadlock

The Djibouti-hosted Somali National Peace Conference has hit deadlock, sources close to the conference told IRIN.

The committee examining proposals for a new national charter is deadlocked on the method of appointment to the Transitional National Council, with the Puntland delegates petitioning for elections to be held on the basis of pre-civil war districts and all others that they be held on the basis of clan.

There is also divided opinion on whether the president should be elected by the conference or by the Transitional National Council.

A group of elders appointed to try and break the deadlock has been deliberating since Tuesday. This week was supposed to be "a week of decisions" to clear the way for the crucial formation and election of the Transitional National Council, a prime minister and president, but "political decisions are dragging", according to IRIN's sources in Djibouti.

As soon as a plenary session is reconvened, the conference is expected to adopt a new national charter. It seems likely that the conference will opt to use Baidoa as a temporary capital while Mogadishu - devastated and affected by factional fighting - will "be prepared", said the source.

Policies regarding health, education and agriculture have been outlined for the new government. Conference delegates are hoping that a framework of governance will encourage absent political and factional leaders to join the conference in the last stages.

Hussein Aideed, the faction leader from Mogadishu (and reportedly in Yemen), is expected by many delegates to join the conference soon. The original number at the conference in Djibouti has swelled to some 2,500 delegates, observers and supporters, mostly staying at the conference site in Arta, some 30 km from the capital, Djibouti.

Sources in Arta told IRIN that Somalis attending the conference were being given goat, camel meat and rice, and that food was bought in bulk by the Djibouti government. Houses have been requisitioned, and camp beds supplied by the French Army based in Djibouti.

There are no official observers at the conference other than the United Nations and some representatives from local embassies.

UN sources told IRIN that the Djibouti government had insisted from the start that the new peace initiative should be held outside the capital and without a large international representation, in light of 13 previous failures.



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