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Somalia Govt Willing To Offer Islamic Rivals Cabinet Posts
KHARTOUM, Sept 2, 2006 — Somalia’s weak transitional government is willing to offer its Islamic rivals who control most of southern Somalia some Cabinet posts and positions in the judiciary and government departments, a Somali Cabinet minister said Friday.
This is part of the U.N.-backed transitional government’s negotiating position during Arab League-sponsored talks with the Islamists - known as the Islamic courts - due to resume Saturday in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, said Mohamud Said Aden, minister for national assets and procurement.
The offer for government will have a clan-based formula that was used to form Somalia’s transitional institutions during the two-year peace talks in neighboring Kenya that concluded in October 2004, Aden told The Associated Press.
"The Islamic courts are coming from one clan, which is Hawiye, and the Somali government was built on the basis of (the clan-based formula)," so they can only fill the position of their clan, Aden said.
Somalia’s Islamic courts have presented themselves as not clan-based, and different from previous leaders who asserted power based on clan.
It is not clear whether they would welcome such an offer. But on Thursday, Sheikh Dahir Geelle, a spokesman for the militants, said the two sides will discuss the militants getting seats in the parliament and Cabinet, and rewriting the transitional charter.
"Despite our power, the large territory we control, we are ready to negotiate and talk with the other side," Ibrahim Hassan Adow, the Islamic courts foreign affairs chief, told The Associated Press on Friday.
He said that his group’s agenda was to seek to assert that Somalis lead the direction of the talks and not anyone else, and to demand that the transitional government order the departure of Ethiopian troops that have been reported to have entered at least three towns in Somalia.
"We have talked to both sides and we asked them to open a new chapter," said Abdallah Mubarak, the Arab League ambassador to Somalia, as mediators shuttled between the two delegations and worked on an agenda for Saturday.
The Arab League arranged talks between the two sides in June, following the Islamic militiamen’s takeover of most of southern Somalia. The internationally recognized but very weak transitional government could only watch as the Islamic group - which the U.S. alleges is harboring wanted terrorists - swept through a significant part of Somalia.
In June, the two sides signed an agreement that called for an immediate truce and in which the Islamic courts officially recognized Somali President Abdillahi Yusuf’s transitional administration.
Follow-up talks scheduled for July failed to take place as there were divisions within the transitional government over how to handle the Islamic courts’ ascendancy in Somalia.
Islamic leaders also refused to attend, after reports that Ethiopian troops had entered Somalia in July. They later reversed their position, however, saying they wanted to discuss the Ethiopian presence with the government directly.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, pulling the country into anarchy.