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Somali Islamist Leader Rejects New Cease-Fire Agreement

By VOA News
10 June 2008

A hardline Somali Islamist leader has rejected a cease-fire deal brokered by the United Nations between the Somali government and some opposition figures.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said Tuesday the fight will continue until Somalia is liberated from occupiers. Aweys is listed by the United States as a terrorist.

Aweys told Reuters that he sees the cease-fire agreement not as a peace deal, but as a trap.

A U.N. official said Monday the Somali government and opposition figures in exile had signed the cease-fire deal during U.N.-led talks in Djibouti.

An aide to the U.N. envoy for Somalia said the deal calls for a termination of armed confrontation, beginning in 30 days. The cease-fire will cover an initial 90-day period.

The agreement also calls for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops within 120 days, but only after U.N. peacekeepers are deployed.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Somali government or the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia. They have engaged in two rounds of talks in Djibouti initiated by U.N. officials.

Their discussions appeared close to collapsing late on Sunday, when U.N. envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said the talks had failed, and that he was terminating the conference.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council said it will consider sending a U.N. peacekeeping operation to Somalia to replace the small African Union force there - but only if the country's political and security situation improve. Members of the Council visited Djibouti last week to encourage Somalia's government and the opposition alliance to hold direct peace talks.

The opposition group supports an Islamist insurgency that has tried to topple the government. The Eritrean-based alliance was demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops who back the government as a condition for holding direct talks.

Somalia has not had a stable central government in 17 years.

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

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