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Somalia: Govt. isolated, Parliament Leader signs pact with UIC

16 December 2006, MOGADISHU, Somalia - The leader of the transitional parliament in Somalia bypassed the government and signed an agreement Saturday to end hostilities with the country's powerful Islamic militia (UIC) and to turn to dialogue.

Parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden has made freelance peace initiatives before with the Islamists, but the government says he no longer acts on its behalf. He is considered the government's most sympathetic leader to the Council of Islamic Courts.

The pact - which pledges to halt military action and resume peace talks - comes one day after President Abdullahi Yusuf said peace talks with the Islamists are no longer an option, warning that the group is allowing al-Qaida terrorists to "set up shop" in the Horn of Africa.

Tension has been mounting in recent weeks between the government, which has international recognition but little actual authority, and the Council of Islamic Courts, which controls most of southern Somalia and enjoys tremendous popular support.

The Somali speaker said he had reached the deal with Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in his capacity as part of the interim authority represented by parliament, the government and the presidency.
"The Islamic Courts are committed to dialogue with the interim federal Somali government as a way of resolving differences ... and stopping any moves conducive to military confrontations by any side," speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said in a joint statement.

The statement was issued after three days of talks in the southern port city of Aden under the auspices of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president.
It said the two sides would resume dialogue to reach a political settlement guaranteeing the participation of all sides in government.
The pact signed Saturday calls for "rejecting any interference in the internal Somalia affairs by the neighboring countries," a clear reference to Ethiopia.


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