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US Urges Somalia To Broaden Political Representation
Addis Ababa, Dec 05, 2007 – The United States urged Somalia's new government Wednesday to broaden its political base to secure peace, which has eluded the Horn of Africa nation since Islamist forces were ousted 10 months ago.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the point at talks with Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, appointed last month, during a visit to Addis Ababa aimed at defusing conflicts in the region.
"I think everyone understands the difficulty of the job in front of you, but that you are a respected leader, and the importance of broadening the political basis for reconciliation in Somalia," Rice said.
Earlier she told reporters that Washington sought to "encourage the broadest possible engagement with forces that are not associated with terrorism but might be part of a political solution for the Somali people."
Washington also wants to tackle the humanitarian emergency and push for quicker deployment of African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia.
The international community is divided over the usefulness of sending UN peacekeepers to ensure stability in Somalia, which has been wracked by civil war since 1991.
Rice reiterated calls for countries other than Uganda to contribute peacekeeping troops to Somalia and allow Ethiopian occupation forces to leave the country eventually.
On Wednesday Rice also joined the interior minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the presidents of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in urging the rapid strengthening of DRC security forces to drive out rebel and foreign forces.
The four countries around Africa's Great Lakes region also appealed for international help in doing so but gave no details about the plans to boost stability.
The talks in the Ethiopian capital were being held amid an offensive by the government forces of DRC President Joseph Kabila against allies of a renegade Tutsi general, Laurent Nkunda, in the east of the country.
Rice and the African leaders also recommitted to a November 9 deal reached by the DRC with Rwanda in Nairobi which sought to balance the need to drive both the general and Hutu militiamen out of the country.
A western military observer who asked not to be named said the problem was that there were not enough government troops to take on both the renegade forces and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The FDLR has been implicated in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.
In addition to Nkunda's renegade troops and the FDLR militia, members of the Lord's Resistance Army of Uganda are operating within the DRC.
The region has been wracked by violence since the early 1990s with the civil war that began in Burundi in 1993, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the regional war that raged in the DRC between 1998 and 2003.
On Sudan, Rice will also discuss efforts to bolster the fragile 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Islamist government of President Omar el-Beshir in Khartoum and the mainly non-Muslim south.
But US officials did not expect Beshir to send anyone to talk with southern Sudanese representatives in Addis Ababa.
In her talks with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the two are likely to discuss renewed tensions with neighboring Eritrea, US diplomats said.
Ethiopia remains in a tense stand-off with its arch-enemy Eritrea, following the dissolution last week of a commission tasked with brokering an agreement on the neighbors' disputed common border.
The Horn of Africa neighbors fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that left 70,000 people dead.