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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 19:31 GMT
Somali Islamists back peace talks
UIC chief Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys (left) and parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan in Mogadishu
Mr Adan (right) said he wanted to avert "an imminent war"
Somali's powerful Islamist leaders say they have agreed to hold new peace talks with the fragile transitional government to avert an all-out war.

The move comes after speaker of the transitional parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan held talks with the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in Mogadishu.

So far there have been no reaction from the transitional government.

Mr Adan was the first senior figure from the government to go to Mogadishu since it was seized by the UIC in June.

The talks in Somalia's capital followed the collapse of peace talks in Sudan last week.

Eyewitness reports from Somalia suggest both sides have been preparing for war and digging trenches.

Ominous

"The talks [with Mr Adan] were so critical and the Islamic courts have accepted the offer from the speaker for talks," senior UIC official Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

"Now, we are ready to continue the peace process in Khartoum," Mr Ibrahim said.

Map
Mr Adan said before the talks he believed that "Somalis can pull themselves out of this crisis and they must do so themselves".

Mr Adan's visit has not been welcomed by other members of the transitional government, BBC Africa analyst David Bamford says.

He says Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf sees the speaker's move as ominous, amid concerns that it may lead to a power-sharing agreement that excludes the rest of the government.

The transitional government is based in Baidoa, 250km (150 miles) north-west of Mogadishu but the two sides' forces are reported to be just 30km apart.

Observers now fear a conflict which could engulf the entire region.

Ethiopia backs the government while its rival Eritrea has been accused of arming the UIC.

Both countries deny reports they have troops in Somalia.

But Ethiopia admits having hundreds of military trainers with the government.

The UIC has rapidly taken control of most of southern Somalia since seizing Mogadishu.

Somalia has been in the grip of warlords and militias for years and has not had a functioning national government since 1991.


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