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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Passport ban hits Somalia talks
President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
The Somali leader is due at peace talks in Kenya next week
The head of Somalia's transitional government has refused to take part in peace talks in Kenya unless he is allowed to travel on a Somali passport.

President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan said he was unhappy at Kenya's refusal to recognise Somali passports, which it says are widely forged.

In Nairobi, 154 delegates to the talks have been evicted from their hotel in a row over unpaid bills.

Somalia has been without a central government since 1991.

Four-star hotel

"We are ready to participate in the peace talks but only if Kenya removes the ban on the passports, because the passport is our national symbol," Mr Hassan told Radio HornAfrik.

He is due to meet with faction leaders in Nairobi on 20 May, in what is supposed to be the final phase of the peace talks, which began in October 2002.

Kenya issued the ban last month following revelations that the Somali passports are no longer being issued in the capital, but on the backstreets of Nairobi.

Somali passport

They said forged passports raised concerns about security and illegal migration.

The United Arab Emirates has also stopped issuing visas to holders of Somali passports.

The Somali delegates moved to the Sixeighty Hotel in February 2003 and their expenses are supposed to be paid by the Kenyan government.

The four-star hotel advertises standard double rooms from 4,700 Kenyan shillings ($60) a night.

This is the latest row over who pays the bills for the delegates at the long-running talks.

Some delegates remain in other Nairobi hotels while others were moved to a state college in a bid to reduce costs.

Fighting died down

The talks began in October 2002 and the rival factions have agreed a ceasefire.

They have also agreed on the composition of a parliament but this has not yet been formed.

In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, fighting is reported to have died down after four days of clashes between militias.

At least 20 people die in some of the worst fighting the city has seen in years.

The clashes which drew in gunmen loyal to warlords Mohammed Dhere and Musa Sudi Yalahow began after an argument between groups of armed guards.

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13 May 04  |  Africa
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12 May 04  |  Africa
UAE 'bans visas for Somalis'
10 May 04  |  Africa
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26 Apr 04  |  Africa
Life amid Mogadishu's ruins
16 Apr 04  |  Africa
Q&A: Somali peace deal
29 Jan 04  |  Africa

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