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Somali Faction Leaders Mull Talks


Faction leaders who have opposed the Somali peace process are willing to hold talks with the man selected to be the country's first president in 10 years, a faction leader said Sunday.

Hussein Mohamed Aidid met newly selected President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan on Sept. 21 in the Libyan town of Sirta and the two had agreed in principle to ``solve the Somali problem through peaceful means.'' Hassan and a 245-member Parliament were elected in August by a peace conference held in Arta, a small town in neighboring Djibouti.

In contrast to the 12 previous attempts to achieve peace in Somalia, all participants in the Arta conference, hosted by Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh, were invited as individuals, not as faction leaders or politicians. A number of faction leaders, including Aidid, who control large militias in Somalia, refused to attend the process. But Aidid, head of the Somali National Alliance, said Sunday that he and other faction leaders are now willing to negotiate with the new government.

``We have agreed in principle to solve the Somali problem through peaceful means, by talking,'' Aidid told The Associated Press in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. ``I was willing to do this for my people for the sake of preventing any further war.'' He did not say when the talks would take place, but said they could include the leaders of the regions of Somaliland and Puntland, President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal and Col. Abdullahi Yussuf, respectively. Both have opposed the Arta conference.

Aidid, based in southern Mogadishu has spent the last month meeting the leaders of Libya, Kenya and Yemen. His meeting with Hassan was arranged by Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi.

The Somali National Alliance is a splinter group of the United Somali Congress formed in 1989 by Aidid's late father, Mohamed Farah Aidid, and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, to oust dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Since Siad Barre's fall, Somalia has had no central government and has been synonymous with chaos and violence.

The election of the president and assembly has created optimism throughout Somalia that stability could return. The biggest threat to the process has been the reaction of the faction leaders in Mogadishu. Aidid said he would not accept the new assembly because he says it is dominated by former members of Siad Barre's regime and Islamic fundamentalists.

``To make a government come back to the country there are two ways. One, militarily which is not acceptable, the other is through consensus. This cannot be done by one group or fundamentalism,'' he said.

``The problem is we need to have a comprehensive constitution and transitional charter which we can all agree.'' Hassan made a brief, triumphant visit to Mogadishu in August, but he has not returned since.


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