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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Somali peace conference postponed
Somali government troops patrol the capital Mogadishu
Security has been stepped up around the conference
A national reconciliation conference in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu has opened - and then adjourned.

Organisers postponed the conference until Thursday to allow more time for all the delegates to arrive.

Several mortar shells landed near the venue on Sunday, injuring civilians, but President Abdullahi Yusuf said violence would not deter the talks.

The main Islamist opposition have refused to attend, saying the venue is not neutral.

Somalia has been without a functioning government for 16 years.

Clan focus

Hundreds of Ethiopian and Somali government troops are patrolling the streets in Mogadishu and guarding the former police warehouse where the talks will be held.

Over 1,000 clan elders, former warlords and politicians from across the country have been invited.

The opposition Islamic Courts, who were driven from the city by Ethiopian and Somali forces and who are now mainly in exile in Eritrea, say they cannot attend because of the presence of their Ethiopian enemies.

There is no clan conflict at the moment in Somalia but there is a political conflict
Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim
Opposition member

A number of delegates from the international community who had planned to attend the opening ceremony were unable to, when their flights were cancelled over security concerns.

When talks begin, they are expected to focus on clan reconciliation, disarmament and sharing natural resources.

But critics say clan conflict is not the major problem and the focus should be on reconciliation between political and armed groups.

"The conference would make sense if it was bringing rival politicians and armed groups to the same table," said Ahmed Diriye, a spokesman for the powerful Hawiye clan.

"But if the idea is to talk about a non-existent tribal conflict, it's a waste of money and energy."

"There is no clan conflict at the moment in Somalia but there is a political conflict," Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim, a member of an opposition alliance linked to the Islamic Courts told the BBC.

"We are calling for a national reconciliation conference which will deal with the differences between the Transitional Federal Government and the other stakeholders, including former parliamentary groups, the Islamic Courts, civil society and the Somali diaspora."

Somalia's president addresses delegates


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