Saudi King & UN chief hails Somali peace deal

Published on Sunday 15th June 2008

Jeddah: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah regards a Somalia truce deal reached last week as a "breakthough" and will invite rival factions to an official signing ceremony as soon as possible, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday.

Ban said after talks with the monarch in the Red Sea city of Jeddah that the June 9 accord aimed at restoring peace and stability in the war-shattered nation was a "very encouraging development."

He said he and King Abdullah viewed the deal reached in Djibouti between the transitional government in Mogadishu and moderate Islamists as "a breakthough."

More than a dozen attempts have failed to end the unrest in Somalia which has been mired in civil war since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre.

The Ethiopian-backed transitional government is currently battling a guerrilla war being waged in the Horn of Africa nation by Islamist militants who were ousted in 2006.

"Saudi Arabia has been playing a very important role on this issue," Ban said, adding that the regional powerhouse would "as soon as possible" host a formal signing ceremony.

The oil-rich kingdom, which is home to a large Somali exiled community, is a major benefactor for all Somali factions, providing material, financial and political support, AFP reports said.

The Djibouti deal was initialled by Somalia's government and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), an opposition umbrella group dominated by Islamists and based in Eritrea.

But ARS member Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, accused by the United States of links to Al-Qaeda, has rejected the deal, saying it fails to set a clear deadline for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

Under the deal, Ethiopians troops, who deployed at the end of 2006 and knocked out Islamists from south and central Somalia, are to withdraw after the UN deploys peacekeepers within 120 days of the armistice taking effect.

The accord also calls for the establishment of a security committee to ensure implementation of the ceasefire as well as the creation of a panel to promote political cooperation, justice and reconciliation and the holding of an international donors' conference.