Somali president says willing to talk to rival Aweys.


Halkaan ka akhri

MOGADISHU 02 May 2009 – Somalia’s president said on Saturday he would welcome negotiations with hard-line opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, which may lead to Aweys joining the Horn of Africa nation’s government.

Aweys, who is on the U.S. terrorism list for alleged links to al Qaeda, returned to Somalia last week from Eritrea on his first known trip home in two years.

Analysts say he is an influential figure for many of the Islamist rebels fighting the new government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

“Hassan Dahir Aweys is a Somali citizen, and we struggled together for a long time. I welcome him if he wants to negotiate,” Ahmed told a news conference in the capital Mogadishu. No specific time was given.

Ahmed said he was willing to give Aweys — his partner in the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which ruled the capital and most of southern Somalia until Ethiopian troops ousted them in 2007 — a chance to suggest ways of improving the government.

“If he is not (willing), he must wait until the two-year term of this government ends, then he should stand in the coming election and try his luck,” he told reporters at the presidential palace.

Aweys and Ahmed later split, with Aweys taking over the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia from Ahmed, who was elected president early this year at U.N.-led talks in Djibouti.

Ahmed said his administration, the 15th attempt at a central government since 1999, would prioritize security, rebuilding, reconciliation and good governance.

“The root cause of the Somali problem is lack of good governance,” he said.

“In terms of security we want to form the national Somali forces including marine forces to tackle instability and piracy,” he said.

Last week, donors agreed to give at least $213 million to help Somalia strengthen its security forces and also fund a small African Union mission over the next year.

Ahmed said the Arab League was planning a meeting to collect funds to assist in rebuilding Somalia, but did not say when it would be.

Sourse Reuters

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