May 28, 2008 / 12:49 PM / 12 years ago

INTERVIEW-Somalia peace talks to re-start on Saturday

By Guled Mohamed and Aweys Yusuf

NAIROBI, May 28 (Reuters) - Somali faction leaders must drop their "winner-takes-all" approach if they are to move towards ending 18 years of civil war when fledgling peace talks restart in Djibouti this weekend, an envoy said on Wednesday.

A U.N. Security Council delegation is expected to swing through Djibouti early next week "in a show of interest and concern" designed to boost the peace process, the U.N. envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, told Reuters.

Djibouti is the first stop on an African mission that will also take it to regional hot-spots such as Sudan, Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"Before going to Djibouti, I have met with Somalis from the transitional government and the Alliance for Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) and other Somalis from the diaspora, and I told them the time has come for them to seek a way to renounce the attitude of winner-takes-all," Ould-Abdallah said.

"I reminded them to compromise and I am happy that based on religious and political principles they have accepted to meet (from May 31) to stop the suffering of their population."

Ould-Abdallah is trying to kickstart mediation between the government and opposition in one of Africa's most intractable conflicts. Peace talks resume on Saturday.

He urged Somalis to respond to the Security Council delegation's visit "by showing leadership, responsibility and caring for their population."

"The Security Council is not coming to negotiate," he said. "It is very important that permanent members of the Security Council ... are there to listen, to try to understand but also to show support and concern."

Ould-Abdallah brought some representatives of Somalia's western-backed government and an opposition umbrella group together for first contacts in Djibouti earlier this month.

But hardline opposition figures, including Islamist insurgent leaders in Somalia, said such mediation efforts would go nowhere until Ethiopian troops backing the government leave.



"BAD DAYS"

In the latest cycle of conflict dominating Somalia since the 1991 toppling of a dictator, Ethiopian and government troops kicked an Islamist movement out of Mogadishu in late 2006.

That sparked an Iraq-style insurgency against the Ethiopians -- viewed by many in Somalia as an occupying force -- and some attacks too on African peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi.

"I think Somalia has been at war for so long that they don't see that a major problem now is trust," Ould-Abdallah said of the difficulty of bringing Somali leaders together.

Despite U.N. hopes, analysts say a meaningful peace pact looks impossible given opposition divisions and the presence of Ethiopian troops.

"The present is bleak, it is dark ... Somalia has been through bad days," acknowledged Ould-Abdallah, who like most Somalis is a Muslim and quoted verses from the Koran to stress some points.

"(But) I am sure good days will come." (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have you say on the top issues, visit:africa.reuters.com/) (Writing by Guled Mohamed; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jon Boyle; nairobi.newsroom@reuters.com; +254 20 2224717)

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