aimed at restoring peace in Somalia, which has lacked a central
government since 1991, opened here Tuesday, with up to 400
delegates taking part.
held a fortnight later than originally scheduled, is the first
stage of a peace plan drawn up by President Ismail Omar Guelleh
enjoys the backing of much of the international community
but has been shunned by several of the most important warlords
who have carved up Somalia into fiefdoms.
is the 13th such meeting to be held since the fall of president
Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
a reading from the Koran, the opening ceremony was held under
a large tent as heavy rains fell. Guelleh was later due to
make the first speech.
of the United Nations and various governments, notably those
of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an east
African body prominent in peace-broking, were present in Arta,
some 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Djibouti city.
of the Somali delegates present are members of the Hawiyeh
clan, which has a strong presence around Mogadishu and in
the centre of the country.
of Somalia's major warlords, Ali Mahdi Mohammed, whose men
control north Mogadishu, was in Djibouti. All others have
rejected Guelleh's initiative.
differs from its predecessors in shifting focus from the warlords
to civil society.
a good start, but they (the delegates) should not leave this
place without reaching an agreement," said Sudan's foreign
minister, Moustafa Osmane Ismail.
plan also calls for the appointment of a parliament, which
would nominate an interim president. Speaking in Mogadishu
on Tuesday, warlord Osman Hassan Ali "Atto" warned that if
this were to happen, he would be forced to "fight aggressively."
of people were killed in clashes after Ali Mahdi Mohammed
was named interim president of Somalia during a conference
in Djibouti in 1991.
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