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World Donors Urge Power-Sharing Deal For Somalia
STOCKHOLM, Aug 29, 2006 – International donors said on Tuesday they were ready to help rebuild Somalia but only if the interim government and Islamists could agree to share power in the Horn of Africa nation racked by years of violence.
A leading Swedish official acknowledged at an International Contact Group on Somalia meeting that the Islamists, who seized the capital Mogadishu from U.S.-backed warlords and large swathes of the south this year, enjoyed broad public support.
"In order for the Somali people to get a decent life, (the Islamists and interim government) will have to find a way to share power," Swedish International Development Cooperation State Secretary Annika Soder told reporters.
"(The aid) will happen when there is a legitimate and legal transition government to deal with," Soder said on the sidelines of the meeting in Stockholm.
"Unfortunately, our judgment is that there isn't one any longer as the transition institutions, and particularly the transition government, have been seriously weakened and the (Islamists) have broad and deep public support," she said.
Soder said the Contact Group, which includes the United States, European nations, the United Nations, African states and the Arab League, wanted to send a strong signal of support for planned talks in Khartoum this week between Somalia's two sides.
The Islamists' rapid rise has threatened the interim government's authority from its provincial base in the town of Baidoa and triggered widespread fears of a regional conflict. Regional power Ethiopia backs the interim government and Eritrea has been accused of arming the Islamists.
The talks in Khartoum will be the second round between the Islamists and the interim government to try and defuse tensions between the two sides vying for authority in the country, which has been in a state of anarchy since 1991.
Islamists leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed traveled to Khartoum on Sunday but returned to Mogadishu on Tuesday. Islamists spokesman Abdirahim Ali Muday said Ahmed had gone to Sudan only to prepare the ground and that a delegation would be sent soon.
In June, the interim government and the Islamic Courts movement recognized each other in their first direct high-level talks.
The interim government, formed in 2004 with international backing, has been racked by months of infighting and has been too weak to move from its temporary seat in Baidoa.
Soder said the Contact Group was ready to hold a formal donors' meeting in Rome, led by Sweden and Italy, but that the Khartoum talks were the only obvious path toward solving Somalia's problems.
She did not give any information on how much money was on the table for reconstruction or how it would be distributed.
Somalia has been mired in lawlessness since 1991 when warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre and then began fighting each other for control of the nation of 10 million.
The interim government is the 14th attempt at imposing central rule since then.
Meanwhile, authorities in Mogadishu were struggling to save lives after heavy floods killed at least two children and forced hundreds of refugees to flee makeshift homes.
Floods have wreaked havoc in the Horn of Africa, bringing misery and death in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan as well as Somalia.
(Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed in Mogadishu)