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Efforts Underway to Open Talks Between Govt, Opposition Alliance
Garowe, Somalia, 10 February 2008 - There are ongoing efforts in Egypt being undertaken by Arab League officials, who are planning to host face-to-face talks between representatives from the Somali government and the opposition, sources said.
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the chairman of the Somali opposition alliance (ARS), led a delegation to the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday.
Sheikh Sharif: Chairman, Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), his delegation includes Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, former Speaker of the Somali parliament. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the Islamic Courts' supreme leader, is already in Cairo.
The senior ARS officials in Cairo were invited by the Egyptian government and the Arab League to prepare for talks with the Somali government.
Currently, Prof. Mohamed Omar Dalha, the deputy Speaker of parliament, is in Cairo, where he represented Somalia at the recently concluded Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference parliaments.
Unconfirmed reports said Prof. Dalha would meet with the ARS officials, including Sheikh Sharif, in talks organized by the Arab League.
Several regional countries and organizations have attempted in vain to host meaningful peace talks between the Somali government and opposition.
But prior talks were repeatedly hampered by pre-conditions to talks issued by both sides, such as the Islamists' demand for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and the government's call for Islamist fighters to disarm.
Nur "Adde" Hassan Hussein, the new Somali Prime Minister, has called for the Eritrea-based ARS opposition alliance to negotiate with the government and end Somalia's 17-year conflict.
Independent sources said there are diplomatic efforts aimed at striking a peace deal between the government and the ARS, especially since such a deal would isolate al Shabaab guerrillas responsible for most attacks against the government and its a llies.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf told a German news agency this week that the government would meet "only with moderate members" of the opposition, while categorically ruling out talks with armed groups.
In related news, a group of 49 fighters were presented to the media today in the capital Mogadishu in a ceremony attended by Mayor Mohamed "Dheere" Omar and national police chief Gen. Abdi Qeybdiid.
A spokesman for the 49 fighters told reporters that they used to fight for the Islamic Courts, but have now switched sides and joined the government.
This claim could not be independently verified.
Source: Garowe Online