17/09/07 (B413) BBC L’opposition somalienne rejette l’accord pour l’unité annoncé à Djeddah – Somali clan unity deal rejected (En Anglais – Info lectrice)

Somalia’s transitional government says it has signed a reconciliation agreement aimed at stabilising the country and uniting Somali clans.

The agreement in Saudi Arabia was signed by the interim president and prime minister but was immediately rejected by the Islamist opposition.

The Jeddah talks followed last month’s reconciliation conference in Mogadishu.

Mogadishu has seen rising violence since Ethiopian-backed government troops ousted Islamists last December.

Hundreds have since died in clashes between Islamist-backed insurgents and government-backed Ethiopian troops.

In the latest violence, at least two people were killed and four others, including two aid workers, were injured in a fierce gun battle between police and freelance militia in the southern Somali port town of Merca.

The Islamist opposition formed a common alliance last week in Asmara, the capital of Ethiopia’s rival, Eritrea.

They agreed to fight the transitional government and force Ethiopian troops out of Somalia.

The head of the Islamic Courts organisation, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, told the BBC Arabic Service that the Mogadishu and Jeddah talks did not represent a serious effort to achieve Somali reconciliation.

He said: « There was no conference for reconciliation in Somalia. It was a conference of division. »

And he added: « There is no legitimate government in Somalia. What is there is occupation. »

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad added: « The Saudi brothers would have been expected to stand by their Somali brothers. But it seems that they wanted to promote this failed and wretched conference to destroy what is left of Somalia’s unity. »

Saudi role

A member of Saudi Arabia’s Shura (Consultative) Council, Mohammad Al Zofa, defended the decision not to invite the Somali opposition to the Jeddah conference.

He said:  » The opposition may be part of the Somali people, not necessarily the main part. Those who met in Jeddah make up the majority of the Somali people which is seeking a solution for its country’s problems. »

« The opposition, such as the Islamist oppositions everywhere, sadly do not even have any vision of solutions to the problems in hotspot areas in the Arab and Muslim world, » added Mohamed Al Zofa.

He added that the agreement reached in Jeddah included a call by the Somali president for an Arab-African peacekeeping force to be sent to Somalia under United Nations leadership.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes says the situation in Mogadishu is worsening, and that recent fighting has hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The UN refugee agency says some 400,000 people have fled the fighting in the capital in the past four months.