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Djibouti Conference

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Djibouti Seeks Help for Somali Unification Talks

Little Djibouti said on Thursday that the reconciliation process it started last year for its giant Red Sea neighbor Somalia was attracting more and more participants but required financial and technical help.

Djibouti Ambassador Roble Olhaye told the U.N. Security Council that his country had been playing host to more than 900 official delegates and 1,000 ``others from everywhere,'' including 100 women, since June 15 in the effort to unify and develop war-torn Somalia.

``The agenda items before the conference seek to institute a decentralized system of governance, be it regional or federal,'' he said.

But Olhaye added, ``Clearly, the financial burdens and pressures of this total effort have proven daunting for a country of Djibouti's size and resources.''

Djibouti, a country about the size of Massachusetts with a population of about half a million, has a per capita gross domestic product of $1,266, according to the U.N. Development Program

. Kieran Prendergast, the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, backed the appeal for help, saying that while some prominent Somali leaders, including warlords, had stayed away from the clan-based conference, Djibouti had facilitated a process that was essentially ``Somali-owned.''

``This is the first time that Somali leaders from all parts of Somalia have met, the first time that representatives of the grass roots of almost all clans have discussed ways and means of rebuilding their country in a process based on consensus-building from the bottom up, and the first time that Somali women have been actively involved,'' Prendergast said. Somalia, about the size of Texas, has had no central government since dictator Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

Two areas, Somaliland and Puntland, have seceded, and warlords have taken control of clan territory. Efforts to involve the warlords in reconstituting the nation have repeatedly failed, but last September President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti proposed political redevelopment talks that would exclude the warlords.

In March and April, Djibouti was the scene of meetings of Somali elders, professionals, intellectuals, peace activists and businessmen, Olhaye said. The present talks, in the resort town of Arta, are scheduled to end on July 15.



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