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Proposed meeting between Somalia govt, opposition in Djibouti
Ali Mahdi Mohamed, organizing committee chairman of the national reconciliation conference, told VOA Somali Service that the ongoing NRC will not be relocated to a neutral venue outside Somalia, but admitted that there are plans for government officials to meet with opposition figures in Djibouti.
"They [opposition groups] contacted us and said they want to meet with the [national reconciliation] committee in Djibouti and we accepted," Chairman Mahdi said.
Mahdi said the opposition groups, including the Islamic Courts and the so-called "Free Parliamentarians" led by former Speaker Sharif Hassan, had replied to his calls for direct talks last month. [ Full story]
Former Speaker Hassan, who is based in Eritrea alongside other opposition figures, said he had not heard of any talk of a Djibouti meeting but underlined that the opposition welcomes direct talks with the government at a neutral location.
"We do not oppose a meeting but [such] meeting must be facilitated by neutral people," Hassan said, adding that Mahdi was appointed by Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and will do what Yusuf tells him to.
He said the biggest problem in Somalia is foreign troops who invaded the country.
"We must talk about these [foreign] troops and these troops must leave the country. Only then will problems in Somalia stop," former Speaker Hassan told VOA.
Yusuf's interim government invited the Ethiopian army to help overthrow an Islamist administration in Mogadishu over the New Year. Insurgent fighters linked to the ousted Islamists are blamed for daily attacks on government positions, troops and officials.
Former Speaker Hassan and a group of lawmakers who were all sacked claim that they are the only legitimate Somali parliamentarians, since lawmakers in Somalia are not free to do as they like under the "Ethiopian occupation."
Source: Garowe Online