28/02/08 (B436) AllAfrica.com / Somalia: Désaccord entre les principaux leaders somaliens sur les conditions de la réconciliation – Entretiens au sommet avec le MAE éthiopien à Baidoa. Leaders Disagree On Reconciliation Approach (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Yusuf Ali

Somalia’s top leaders held a closed-door meeting with visiting Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin Wednesday regarding the security situation and the path to national reconciliation, sources said.

President Abdullahi Yusuf, Prime Minister Nur « Adde » Hassan Hussein and parliament Speaker Adan « Madobe » Mohamed flew from the capital Mogadishu to the south-central town of Baidoa, 250km northwest of the capital, to welcome the Ethiopian delegation.

Security was tightened in and around Baidoa as the Somali government leaders landed, with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Mesfin and his delegation arriving afterwards.

No word emerged from the private meetings and the Ethiopian government delegation flew back to Addis Ababa in the afternoon.

But government sources confidentially told Garowe Online that disagreements have surfaced among Somali leaders regarding the proper reconciliation approach.

President Yusuf has maintained his hardline stance on negotiating with « extremist groups, » whom he considers terrorists intent on overthrowing his Ethiopian-backed interim government.

By contrast, Prime Minister Nur Adde has repeatedly appealed to all members of the opposition to negotiate with the government in the elusive search for lasting peace in Somalia.

Speaker Madobe supports the Prime Minister’s initiative, Garowe Online has learned.

It is not clear whether or not the leaders’ personal differences have been resolved yet. Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the United Nations’ Special Representative for Somalia, also arrived in Baidoa today.

Somalia’s interim government, established in 2004, has struggled to assert its authority across the war-ravaged nation. Personal divisions at the top helms of power has contributed to the government’s lack of progress, in terms of restoring security and genuinely pursuing reconciliation to end the country’s 17-year conflict.

The government’s armed opposition, led by Islamist insurgents, have shown no desire to engage in peace talks as long as Ethiopian troops remain on Somali soil.

An Islamist-led insurgency, mainly in Mogadishu, has killed more than 6,500 people and displaced half of the capital’s civilian population, according to the UN and human rights groups.

On Wednesday, an Ethiopian army truck was blown up in Mogadishu by a landmine, witnesses said. The vehicle was « completely destroyed, » but casualties could not be independently confirmed.