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Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 18:37 UK

Somali talks end with no meeting

People leave Mogadishu
Tens of thousands have fled the fighting in Mogadishu

Peace talks on Somalia have broken up without any face-to-face discussions between the government and the main opposition alliance.

After four days meeting UN diplomats in Djibouti, the two sides agreed to attend further talks in two weeks time.

The opposition insists it will not engage in direct negotiations until the government agrees a timetable for Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia.

The two sides did, however, issue a joint appeal to improve aid access.

Ethiopian troops are in Somalia supporting a transitional government, but an insurgency has led hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

The parties decided to meet again in Djibouti for further talks on 31 May.

The communique, announced by UN envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, called on all Somalis "to put aside their differences to facilitate unhindered humanitarian access and the delivery of assistance to the people with immediate effect."

Mr Abdallah organised the peace talks, which started on Monday, between the government and the Asmara-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, which includes leaders of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

The UIC ruled much of Somalia in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian forces backed by Somali government troops, who have been struggling to exert their control over the country ever since.

Al-Shabab, the militant wing of the UIC, did not attend the talks.

The talks were held against a backdrop of daily clashes between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government troops.

The country has been devastated by conflict since 1991 when the former president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted.

At least a dozen peace initiatives have collapsed.


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