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Djibouti Conference

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Govts. Urged To Back Somali Peace

The Security Council gave strong support Thursday to a proposal aimed at ending a decade of violence in Somalia, and urged governments to provide political and financial backing to the process.

In an open session of the council, the east African nation of Djibouti, the author of the initiative, said a peace conference currently under way is making great progress and may be the last chance to save the Somali people from the ongoing fighting.

About 900 Somali delegates -- including elders and political leaders -- have been meeting in the town of Arta in neighboring Djibouti since May 2, with the goal of writing a charter and establishing a transitional assembly to restore a central government to Somalia.

Although most Somali warlords have snubbed the conference launched by Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guellah, the Security Council urged them to join the peace effort.

The conference ``has made great progress'' so far, Djibouti's U.N. Ambassador Roble Olhaye told the council, and ``Somalia appears to be on its way ... to genuine dialogue.''

He told the council that delegates were expected to reach an agreement by July 15. Somalia has not had a central government since 1991, when warlords conspired to oust dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, then turned on each other as the country disintegrated into warring fiefdoms.

An American-led U.N. peacekeeping mission from 1992 through 1995 failed to reconcile the factions.

Olhaye said the current conference gave voice to the people of Somalia, rather than only to the factional leaders, who have so far failed to end fighting.

But some members of the council expressed concern though that the warlords still refused to take part in the conference.

``We would encourage all regions of Somalia to take part in the peace and reconciliation process,'' said British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock. Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, who governs the breakaway republic of Somaliland, along with faction leaders Hussein Aidid and Osman Ali Atto oppose the peace plan.

The United States appeared cautious and warned of the difficulties ahead.

``Even if the current discussions in Djibouti produce a blueprint for an interim government, we must remember that this is only the first step and perhaps the easiest step toward the rehabilitation of Somalia,'' said deputy U.S. ambassador Nancy Soderberg.

Some 750,000 people in Somalia are affected by the severe drought that has hit the entire Horn of Africa.

The council called on the warring factions to assure the safety and freedom of movement of humanitarian workers bringing aid to Somalia.

 

 


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