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SOMALIA: New president pledges to return home

President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan said on Monday that he planned to return to Somalia with newly elected transitional officials "soon" to publicise the political achievements resulting from four months of peace talks in neighbouring Djibouti.

In a speech to the Transitional National Assembly and clan elders gathered in Arta, he said: "The world community is expecting us to attend the forthcoming United Nations Millenium Summit, but we have to demonstrate beforehand our legitimacy by reaching out to the Somali people."

He said clan leaders who attended the Arta talks had to return home "to spread the good news and tell the Somali people that peace and reconstruction is, from now on, the order of the day." Although he announced no dates, conference sources said they believed his immediate priority was to return to the capital, Mogadishu, to demonstrate that it is not a no-go area for the interim authorities.

"What we need is a functioning government and not recognition, because our country Somalia has already boundaries which had been recognised by the international community 40 years ago", he said.

Abdiqassim Salad also said that during his inauguration ceremony on Sunday attended by a number of regional leaders, he had also held talks with the French cooperation minister, Charles Josselin and Maurizio Melani, a senior Italian Foreign Ministry official. "They have promised to provide emergency assistance for us as soon as we complete the formation of our transitional authority," he said.

The aid would form part of funds European Union development funds frozen when the last government fell sparking nine years of civil war and anarchy. He also announced that he would approach Arab League nations scheduled to meet in Cairo on Sunday to "consider a special request for a (sort of) Marshall plan" aimed at rebuilding Somalia: "It is up to the Arab World to show to which extent they are ready to help rebuild a sister country like Somalia."


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