Italy says to host meeting on Somali piracy..

Frattini

Halkaan ka akhri

ROME, May 20 2009 – Italy said on Wednesday it would host a meeting in June with Somalia’s government and opposition to discuss ways of stabilising the country and tackling piracy, but a Somali minister said he was not aware of such a meeting.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a statement the June 9-10 meeting was aimed at helping Somalia consolidate its fragile U.N.-backed government, which is battling Islamist insurgents.

Forces loyal to President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Somalia’s first Islamist president, control only parts of the coastal capital and Somalia’s central region.

“The problem (of piracy) can only be comprehensively tackled by addressing the issue of the desperate fragility of this country,” Frattini said at a maritime conference in Rome.

Somalia’s foreign minister, however, said the only Rome gathering he was aware of was a meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG), which is trying to help broker peace, and that would be not be attended by the opposition.

“We have talked about the ICG meeting on 19th June and piracy is one of the subjects we want to address. This meeting has nothing to do with the opposition,” Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar told Reuters by phone from London.

The Italian foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Pirate attacks off the eastern African coast have escalated in recent weeks despite the presence of foreign warships in the region, including an EU force of 13 vessels.

Ahmed, a Libyan-trained lawyer and former opposition leader, has said Muammar Gaddafi’s government was involved in a peace process to end 18 years of war and violence in Somalia.

Gaddafi, currently chairman of the African Union, is due to visit Italy from June 10-12, although it was not immediately clear whether he would attend the conference.

The Islamic Courts Union, led by Ahmed, controlled Mogadishu in 2006 before Ethiopian troops, wary of having an Islamist state next door, invaded and ousted them from power.

The Ethiopians pulled out at the start of this year but hardline Islamists have carried on attacking the new government and African Union peacekeepers in the capital.

Since Ethiopia has intervened fighting has killed at least 17,700 civilians, driven 1 million from their homes and left 3 million reliant on food aid.  

Source:    Reuters

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