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Somali PM Downbeat On Talks After "Extremist" Takeover

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NAIROBI, Sept 25, 2006 – Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said on Monday he was pessimistic about peace talks with rival Islamists after they seized a strategic port city in what he termed an expansion of "extremists and terrorists".

Islamist forces took over the southern town of Kismayo on Monday, later opening fire towards residents who burnt tires, threw stones and chanted to protest against the takeover. The Western-backed government, which is based in the provincial town of Baidoa, denounced the Kismayo takeover as a breach of an agreement reached during peace talks in Sudan to halt further military expansion.

"We were committed and are still committed (to the talks), but fighting from one hand and negotiations from the other cannot continue," Gedi told a news conference in Kenya's capital Nairobi.

"Already they have broken the agreements, the ceasefire, killing the people of Somalia, displacing them. So I don't see any positive approach to continue dialogue with those who are killing the people of Somalia."

The Islamists and government were next due to meet in Khartoum at the end of October, but it is unclear whether that round will now go ahead.

Gedi appealed to the international community to help Somalia against what he called dangerous radicals among the Islamists.

"It's an expansion of extremists and terrorists -- it will not only affect Somalia but the whole region," he said.

"The transitional federal government promises and calls upon the Somali people to prepare to defend themselves," he added.

The Islamists' advances since June have challenged the aspirations of President Abdillahi Yusuf's interim government, the 14th attempt at effective central rule since warlords ousted a dictator in 1991.

Analysts fear that if the Islamist-government standoff deteriorates into conflict, it could spark a major regional war in the Horn of Africa.

Source: Reuters

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