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ICC NOTE: Jendayle Frazier questions the motives of the Islamic militants, who have sent peaceful messages to the West, yet refuse peace keeping forces into the country. Every day, they are gaining more ground, establishing Islamic courts, and perhaps further endangering the lives of the Christian minority.

June 16, 2006

NY Times

6 Nations Urge Talks in Somalia for Exiled Rulers and Islamists

By HELENE COOPER

The United States joined five other countries yesterday in calling for negotiations between Somalia ‘s largely powerless government in exile and the Islamists who have seized control in Mogadishu and swaths of southern Somalia .

The diplomats also pledged economic and political support to Somalia’s long-neglected interim government, which was formed with United Nations support but has been unable to enter Mogadishu, the previous capital, and has been stuck in Baidoa, about 150 miles away.

A communiqué issued after the hurriedly convened meeting is filled with diplomatic but nonspecific references to the need for “enhanced multilateral engagement” and “overall co-ordination of the international community’s support.”

The countries in the group are the United States , Britain , Italy , Norway , Sweden and Tanzania .

In any event, Washington is adopting a more conciliatory approach to the Islamists. Jendayi E. Frazer, the State Department’s top Africa official, had kind words yesterday about a second letter from Sheik Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the Islamist militia group.

“Before our meeting, we received a letter from the Islamic Courts Union,” Ms. Frazer said. “They said they won’t allow Somalia and Mogadishu to become a haven for terrorists, and that’s encouraging.”

Mr. Ahmed and the Islamic Courts Union seized control of Mogadishu last week. The first letter to the international community was also conciliatory, saying that the Islamists wanted a “friendly relationship.”

But Ms. Frazer questioned why the Islamic militias were continuing to push north into other Somali towns. Reuters, quoting residents, reported yesterday that Islamist militias had moved on Baladweyne, near the Ethiopian border and about 190 miles north of Mogadishu .

“What is the purpose, what is the intent?” Ms. Frazer asked.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since early 1991, when largely clan-based warlords overthrew its dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, then turned on one another. Last week, American-backed warlords fighting against Islamists were run out of Mogadishu . Washington fears the Somali Islamists may be harboring operatives of Al Qaeda.

The United States began informally reaching out to Somali clans in late 2002, shortly after an attack on a hotel in Mombasa , Kenya , and a failed attempt to shoot down a plane bound for Israel from Mombasa . Washington was seeking intelligence about people suspected of being members of Al Qaeda, said a recent report by the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit research organization with extensive experience in Somalia.

But while that approach brought a few successes, it may also be part of the reason for the Islamic resurgence in Somalia , which is far better known for clan loyalty than for adherence to strict Islamic codes.

Yesterday’s communiqué also called on the international community to increase relief assistance to Somalia . There are some 250,000 displaced people in Mogadishu , and Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, said he told the diplomats, ” Somalia today is one of the worst human crises on earth.”

“It’s a place where people do not go to school but become child soldiers and terrorists,” Mr. Egeland said after the meeting. For the full article….