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UN Envoy in Somalia to Discuss Peacekeeping Force

18 January 2007

A top United Nations envoy is in Somalia to discuss plans to deploy an African peacekeeping force in the country.

Francois Lonseny Fall (special representative of the U.N. secretary-general) flew from Nairobi to Mogadishu Thursday to meet with interim President Abdullahi Yusuf.

Fall says it is encouraging to see Mr. Yusuf installed at Villa Somalia, the presidential palace, calling it "a very important step."

He says he received assurances Mr. Yusuf will continue reconciliation talks with Somali warlords. Fall also said the international community must protect the interim government to facilitate the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces.

Addis Ababa has said it will soon pull its troops from Somalia, after helping the interim government push rival Islamists out of Mogadishu last month.

The African Union has pledged to send 8,000 peacekeepers in an effort to avoid a security vacuum.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Meanwhile, the United States has criticized Somalia's parliament for dismissing its speaker, saying the move will make it difficult for the war-torn country to bring about political reconciliation.

The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said the removal of Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden on Wednesday will have a negative impact on efforts to promote dialogue.

Last year, Aden conducted unauthorized peace talks with the rival Islamist movement which then controlled Mogadishu. Mr. Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi strongly rejected his efforts.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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