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Somalia: UN asks Islamic forces to enter dialogue

Somalia: top UN envoy calls on Islamic forces to enter dialogue with other factions

The top United Nations envoy for Somalia today called on Islamic forces, which are reported to have taken control of the capital Mogadishu after fierce battles with other groups, to enter into talks with all parties in an effort to bring stability to a country that has been torn by factional fighting for the past 15 years.

“Members of the international community welcome reconciliatory statements from the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) and encourage a similar approach from the Union of Islamic Courts and other parties in Mogadishu,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Somalia Francois Lonsény Fall said in a statement.

The transitional government, originally set up in neighbouring Kenya is based in Baidoa, 250 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu, and has been working with IGAD – the multi-country Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union and the international community to develop a national security and stabilization plan.

“The international community reiterates its support to the efforts of the TFIs in pursuing dialogue, reconciliation and stable governance in accordance with the Transitional Federal Charter, and stands ready to provide assistance within this framework,” Mr. Fall added.

Mr. Annan last night expressed concern at the latest developments and called on all sides to stop the fighting and enter into negotiations. “He stresses that all parties to the conflict should resolve their differences and address outstanding issues in accordance with the Transitional Federal Charter of Somalia,” his spokesman said.

Somalia, one of the world’s poorest countries about the size of Texas with a population of some 8 million on the east coast of Africa, has been without a functioning government ever since the collapse of President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime in 1991.

In addition to the factional fighting it has been beset by serious drought. Just a few days ago UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland warned of a huge shortfall in the $326 million dollars the world body is seeking to cover urgent humanitarian needs there.

Six months into 2006, it has garnered only $135 million and although needs for food are 60 per cent covered, all other needs identified in the appeal have less than 25 per cent of the funds required.

Currently Mogadishu is the only capital in the world where the UN does not have access for international humanitarian staff, due to insecurity, despite an estimated 250,000 internally displaced living in the city. The aid community is especially concerned over the delay in the polio and measles immunization campaigns.

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