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Final phase of talks to be launched on 13 March

Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) ministerial facilitation committee for the Somali peace talks, has announced that Somalia's interim charter will be launched on 13 March by the IGAD Council of Ministers. The launching ceremony will be attended by Alpha Oumar Konare, the chairman of the Commission of the African Union, and Amr Mousa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, according to a press statement Musyoka issued on 5 March. Also present will be Somali political leaders, traditional leaders, delegates and members of the IGAD Partners Forum. "The Transitional Federal Charter provides the legal framework for five (5) years transitional period," said the statement. Musyoka called on all Somali leaders who had left for Somalia to return and participate in the final phase of the conference "in order to realise sustainable peace and all-inclusive government for Somalia". The leaders of the Somali groups meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on 29 January signed what has been described as "a landmark breakthrough" agreement on a number of contentious issues that had earlier been plaguing the peace talks, thereby paving the way for the adoption of the interim charter and moving the talks to the final phase. While welcoming contacts among the various political groups, Musyoka urged Somali leaders "to undertake reconciliatory meetings between all clans and political leaders in order to build trust and facilitate the final process of power sharing". Musyoka welcomed assurances by his Ethiopian counterpart to the effect that "Ethiopia remains fully committed" to the IGAD-sponsored peace talks. Ethiopia, one of the so-called frontline states, has had no representation in the peace talks for several months, calling into question its commitment to the process. The minister thanked the Somali leaders "for their positive cooperation, perseverance, patience and willingness to make sacrifices to achieve the desired consensus in finding peace for the people of Somalia". Meanwhile, some Somali faction leaders who are meeting in Jowhar, 90 km north of the capital, Mogadishu, say they are not returning to the talks, one of them told IRIN. Shaykh Adan Madobe, the leader of a Rahanweyn Resistance Army faction, said his group would not return to Nairobi "under the current conditions". "So far, none of our concerns has been addressed, and until they are we are not returning," he said. Madobe, who is the group's spokesman, said they were in the process of setting up a committee "that will prepare for the launching of the final phase of the peace talks inside Somalia". However, an IGAD source involved in the talks dismissed any talk of another conference. "There is no other conference inside or outside Somalia. This is it," he said. He said that IGAD was trying to bring those leaders back into the talks. "We wish them to be here, but with or without them, the talks will continue," he stressed. He pointed out that all IGAD member states, as well as the AU and the Arab League "were on board and there is no turning back". The IGAD-sponsored talks, which opened in Kenya over a year ago, have been dogged by wrangles over issues such as an interim charter, the number of conferees and the selection of future parliamentarians.
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