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|Talks 'Will Not Stop' Despite Salad's Walkout|
Nairobi, July 30, 2003 (IRIN) - The UN Secretary-General's representative for Somalia, Winston Tubman, has said Somali peace talks will continue despite Wednesday's walkout by the president of the Transitional National Government (TNG), Abdiqassim Salad Hassan.
"His absence will make the exercise difficult, but the talks will continue and will not stop," Tubman told IRIN.
Abdiqassim told IRIN on Wednesday he was suspending his participation in the Kenya talks "until issues of concern to us are addressed satisfactorily".
He said he had taken the decision because the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) technical committee, which is steering the talks, "has ignored and trivialised our concerns".
In a separate press statement issued on Tuesday, Abdiqassim accused some members of the technical committee - which comprises Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti - of becoming "part and parcel of the problem" and of having "overtly and covertly supported the division of the TNG".
The TNG prime minister, Hasan Abshir Farah, and the speaker of parliament, Abdallah Derow Isak, are still in Nairobi and have opposed Abdiqassim's decision to withdraw.
Abdiqassim told IRIN that both men could stay on, "but they have no authority to sign any binding agreement on behalf of the TNG".
The press statement said that among the issues which had not been properly addressed were the name of the future Somali government, the status of the existing regional administrations, the composition of a new parliament, and the selection of members of parliament.
It noted that another issue of vital importance to the Somali nation was the participation in the conference of representatives from the northern regions.
"Contrary to the wishes of the Somali people, the technical committee has unilaterally decided to exclude those regions from the conference, which amounts to the dismemberment of the Somali Republic," said the statement.
It reiterated Abdiqassim's rejection of a peace accord reached on 5 July by various groups attending the peace conference, including some members of the TNG.
TNG Information Minister Abdirahman Ibbi told IRIN that Abdiqassim would return to the talks "as soon as the issues we raised are adequately addressed".
"Once we are satisfied that the technical committee is affording our concerns the seriousness they deserve and addressing them, then we will bring the president back. It only takes 90 minutes to fly from Mogadishu to Nairobi," he stated.
The talks, which opened last October under the auspices of IGAD, have been marred by wrangles over issues of representation and selection of members of parliament.