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Coleman Tells Somali President Reconciliation Is Key
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2008 — Sen. Norm Coleman urged the president of Somalia on Tuesday to pursue reconciliation as a way to move the nation out of its violence-ravaged state.
Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, met for about 40 minutes with Somali President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed. He said he urged Ahmed to reach out to “all stakeholders not associated with terrorism,” while Ahmed emphasized the need for enhanced security.
“The president said he took my words very seriously, and would maintain his commitment to reconciliation,” Coleman said.
Somali’s ambassador to the United Nations, Elmi Ahmed Duale, said Ahmed stressed reconciliation; the need for a partial lifting of the arms embargo so the government could better defend itself; assistance to help patrol the coast; and the need for humanitarian assistance to help Somalis coping with a drought.
The transitional government in Somalia, formed in 2004 with U.N. help, has struggled to assert control. Somalia has been afflicted by violence and anarchy for more than a decade.
Coleman said that Ahmed stressed the need for increased security, including beefed up coastline security and a United Nations peacekeeping force.
“What the U.N. needs to see is a peace to keep,” Coleman said, adding that Somalia is on a path to reconciliation. “That’s the good news. Clearly for the future of Somalia, the U.N. needs to be involved.”
Duale, who attended the meeting, said: “The Somali government could have solved lots of its problems peacefully if it had its own security forces. This could not happen because there is an arms embargo.”
Coleman’s interest in the matter is both international and local: Minnesota is believed to have the largest Somali population in the U.S.
Last month, the Bush administration granted Somalis living in the United State under temporary protected status an extra 18 months in this country as the U.S. government concluded that conditions in Somalia remain “dire.”
Even though the Somali government has struggled to assert control, Coleman called it a “credible government.”
“But clearly, greater steps have to be taken on the reconciliation side. He’s moving down to a path. He’s provided some credibility, some stability. He’s also certainly been an anchor against the Islamic extremists, who at one point controlled things in Somalia. But more has to be done.”
Ethiopian troops supporting the transitional government’s soldiers come under daily attack from the Islamic fighters they chased from power in the capital in December 2006. Weekend violence between the two sides led hundreds of residents to flee the capital, Mogadishu, following death tolls placed in the scores.
Citing concerns about human rights violations by Ethiopian troops, Coleman said they “need to be stepping back and a U.N. force really needs to step in.”
The United States has been concerned that al-Qaida could use the lawless country as a haven for terrorists.
Ahmed is also meeting with other lawmakers, and is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week, Duale said.