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|Plenary Endorses Agreement As Talks Move to Final Phase|
Nairobi, February 24, 2004 (IRIN) – The Somali national reconciliation conference has entered its third and final phase, during which the selection of future parliamentarians and the formation of an interim government will begin, according to a source from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), under whose auspices the talks are being held.
Last night the plenary "endorsed the 29 January agreement by a large majority", the source told IRIN on Tuesday.
The leaders of the Somali groups meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on 29 January signed what has been described as "a landmark breakthrough" agreement on a number of contentious issues that had earlier been plaguing the peace talks.
The agreement passed its first hurdle when the Transitional National Assembly of Somalia gave it its blessing in the capital, Mogadishu, on 8 February.
"It has taken over a year to reach this point [third phase]. It has been a long and difficult road but we are almost there," the source added.
The plenary's endorsement came after "a long and difficulty session", during which mediators "were at times cajoling and at times twisting arms", a Somali source told IRIN.
"There was some grumbling from some individuals, but we cannot allow a few individuals to hold the process hostage," the IGAD source noted.
Col Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, the chairman of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army, told IRIN that the endorsement "was a significant step" towards the establishment of an all-inclusive government for Somalia.
After the endorsement, Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also the chairman of IGAD's ministerial facilitation committee for the Somali peace talks, had, on behalf of the regional grouping, declared the plenary closed, the IGAD source reported.
"It is now up to the clans and their leaders to select their parliamentary representatives," he said, adding that he expected this phase to take about two months.
Somalia's four major clans will each select 61 MPs, and an alliance of small clans will select 31. The task of dividing the seats along subclan lines will be left to each group. "This could be a very long process, but it can be done" said Shatigadud.