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UN Envoy Meets with Somalia's Interim Leader

18 January 2007

The United Nations' special envoy to Somalia has met the country's interim president for the first time in the Somali capital Mogadishu. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi reports the envoy is urging government leaders to reconcile with opponents and form an all-inclusive, broad-based administration.

The U.N. Secretary General's special representative to Somalia, Francois Fall, held a brief closed-door meeting with interim President Abdullahi Yusuf in Villa Somalia, the official presidential residence in Mogadishu.

The U.N. envoy did not give details of their half-hour conversation. But he said that now that the internationally-recognized government was in the capital, it was up to the international community to protect it and to facilitate the withdrawal of thousands of Ethiopian troops in the city.

Francois Fall added that government leaders must also do their part in reconciliation efforts to create a country that is free from clan violence and warlordism.

"This is the will of the international community, the will of the United Nations to see a reconciled Somalia," he said.

The envoy last met President Yusuf in the southern town of Baidoa, 250 kilometers away. That is where the interim government was based for more than a year, too weak to challenge an increasingly radical Mogadishu-based Islamist movement, which rose to power in June and threatened the government.

To prevent fundamentalist Islamists from threatening Ethiopia, the regional giant intervened militarily, sending troops to Somalia to support the interim government. On December 28, Somali and Ethiopian troops took control of Mogadishu, after Islamist leaders abandoned the city.

While many Somalis are still cheering the end of the Islamists' six-month religious rule, they also view Ethiopia as an historic enemy and have demanded that its troops withdraw. Ethiopia is eager to withdraw, but is concerned about leaving a security vacuum if there is no force in place to replace its troops.

The United States has led the call for the deployment of 8,000-member stabilization force from African states. So far, only the east African country of Uganda has pledged to contribute about 1,500 soldiers.

Meanwhile, President Yusuf assured the U.N. envoy that his government was reaching out to all clans and that Somalia's gun-infested capital was being disarmed.

But on Wednesday, the government's pro-Islamist speaker of parliament was voted out in a possible sign that the government is still not ready to reconcile with perceived enemies.

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