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Somali Leaders Sign Reconciliation Agreement in Saudi Arabia

17 September 2007

Somali leaders have signed a reconciliation agreement negotiated during the government's recent national peace conference.

The agreement signed in the Saudi city of Jeddah late Sunday encompasses some of Somalia's many rival factions but not the Islamic court leaders who oppose the government and boycotted the conference.

Saudi King Abdullah, who oversaw the signing, expressed hope the agreement would promote peace in Somalia.

In a speech, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf called for the deployment of Arab and African forces under U.N. command to restore peace and security to his country.

Somalia has not had a stable central government in 16 years, and the capital, Mogadishu, has been plagued by violence on an almost daily basis since January.

The fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist-led insurgents has killed thousands of people and forced more than 100,000 others to flee the capital.

The government's six-week national reconciliation conference in July and August failed to stop the violence or produce any major advance toward peace in the Horn of Africa country.

A conference of opposition leaders who met in Eritrea this month formed an alliance against the Ethiopian forces that are in Somalia backing the government.

An Islamist movement controlled Mogadishu and other Somali cities for several months last year before being ousted in a joint Ethiopian-Somali government offensive.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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