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Sudan Tribune

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Somali govt, opposition figures ink peace deal

August 19, 2008 (NAIROBI) — Somalia’s government has formally signed a peace deal with some opposition figures, U.N. officials said on Tuesday, but the pact initialled in June has been rejected by hardliners and done little to quell violence.

More than 8,000 civilians have been killed and 1 million uprooted in fighting since early last year pitting President Abdullahi Yusuf’s interim administration and allied Ethiopian forces against Islamist rebels.

His government and a faction of the opposition initialled a tentative peace agreement on June 9 at U.N.-led talks in Djibouti, and then formally signed it late on Monday.

“The parties agreed to continue the political dialogue between themselves and refrain from making inflammatory statements,” the United Nations said in a statement.

“(They) strongly condemn the perpetrators as well as those who mastermind and fund violence which targets innocent people, including killings, indiscriminate shelling, looting, raping and acts of piracy.”

The Djibouti Agreement calls for Ethiopian troops supporting the transitional government to be replaced with U.N. peacekeepers, who would also take over the duties of a small, ill-funded African Union force.

But disagreement over the discussions split the Eritrea-based opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) in two, with hardline exiles in Asmara joining the insurgents in denouncing the ARS officials who took part.

Like previous rounds of talks — including a six-week peace conference last year in rubble-strewn Mogadishu — the negotiations have done little to reduce bloodshed on the ground.

The U.N. statement said both sides in Djibouti were united on the urgent need to address all aspects of the crisis.

“In this connection, the parties reaffirmed their strong determination to help ensure unhindered humanitarian access and assistance,” it added.

The United Nations says the number of Somalis desperately needing food aid could reach 3.5 million people later this year — nearly half the population.

But U.N officials say international donors had so far funded only about a third of a $637 million (343 million pounds) aid appeal.

(Reuters)