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Somali warlord denies pact with new president

 

Hussein Aideed, Somalia's most prominent warlord, has denied signing a reconciliation pact with the country's recently elected president and warned of fresh violence if the new leader tried to impose his rule.

Aideed met Abdiqassim Salad Hassan in Libya 10 days ago but he said no agreement was reached and that he considered his rival to be just another of Somalia's faction leaders. "We do not accept Abdiqassim as president of the Somali republic," Aideed said in Nairobi late on Sunday.

Libya arranged the meeting and said the two men had signed a reconciliation pact, raising hopes that Abdiqassim Salad would soon be able to set up Somalia's first government in a decade. He was elected president in late August by a fledgling parliament-in-exile sitting in the small mountain resort of Arta in neighbouring Djibouti.

He has already won international backing and public support inside Somalia. But he faces stiff resistance from Aideed and other warlords in the capital Mogadishu as well as from two northern regions that have set up their own governments.

Aideed said the only way to resolve Somalia's crisis was for all factional and regional leaders, including Abdiqassim Salad, to meet in Mogadishu and negotiate a transitional government.

He said the new parliament was dominated by Islamic fundamentalists and warned of an "explosion" of violence if Abdiqassim Salad tried to rule without the support of the faction leaders. "If the Arta group tries to impose itself as the government of Somalia, there will be a new reaction," Aideed said. "Lives will be lost in Somalia. T

his is what we are trying to prevent." Civil war among Somalia's rival clans first erupted when former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in early 1991. A massive United Nations peacekeeping force was sent to the Horn of Africa nation but it was harassed and ultimately forced out by militiamen belonging to Aideed's clan. After the warlords failed to find peace at a dozen separate conferences, Djibouti launched an initiative aimed at bringing traditional clan elders together and isolating the gunmen.

Representatives from all the clans joined the Arta conference in May and three months later set up a 245-member parliament which then elected Abdiqassim Salad as president. He is backed in Mogadishu by an alliance of businessmen and Islamic clerics who are trying to set up a new police force to secure the city before the new government takes office.

Hundreds of militiamen have already joined the new force and Abdiqassim Salad's backers say they include many of the gunmen who previously worked for the faction leaders. But the warlords say they have suffered very few defections and insist their military power is still intact.

"They come under our command. None of them have joined (the police force) and none of them will join. This I can assure you," Aideed said. "The factions are capable. Militarily, they are ready and capable."

He also rejected suggestions that he or any other warlord could be bought off with senior posts in Abdiqassim Salad's new government. "This is not acceptable. For us, we have no trouble getting jobs. We do not need to be ministers," he said .

 





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