UN: Somalis agree Ethiopian deadline
UN claims the resurrection of a peace deal agreed in July between Somalia and Ethiopia. However, not all conflicting forces were represented in the negotiations. "Other groups - including Islamist militias - continue to fight against the transitional government. They will not observe a ceasefire until Ethiopians leave the country."
Ethiopian forces would withdraw from Somalia early next year under a deal signed by the Somali government and several opposition groups in Djibouti, a UN spokeswoman said. The accord, signed at UN-sponsored talks on Sunday, ressurrected a ceasefire deal agreed in July, but came as at least 13 people were killed in the Horn of Africa nation's ongoing violence. The government and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) agreed that Ethiopian troops would initially pull out of areas in the capital Mogadishu and the central town of Beledweyne on November 21. These areas would be left under the control of African Union troops (Amisom), Susannah Price, spokeswoman for the UN envoy to Somalia, said. "The second phase of Ethiopian troop withdrawal should be completed within 120 days," the agreement said, although Price was unable to say when exactly the countdown would begin. Ethiopian forces were deployed to Somalia to help government troops force out the Islamic courts union, which controlled Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia. However, it was unclear how succesful the deal, which comes before efforts to restart peace talks in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, would be in tackling the violence as al-Shabaab, which has carried out a series of attacks, and several other armed groups were not represented in Djibouti.
Military ambushed: In the latest violence, six people died when Ethiopian and Somali forces clashed with anti-government fighters after their military convoy was ambushed near the town of Baidoa. A witness said that the fighters used "mortars and machine-gun fire" to attack nine government vehicles. A second witness said nine Somali soldiers were taken to hospital. In Wanlaweyn, about 90km south of Mogadishu, the bodies were of four civilians were found after another clash between Ethiopian forces and fighters. Two police officers and a civilian alo died when a roadside bomb exploded near a police checkpoint in the north of the capital, according to police. More than 10,000 people have been killed and one million other displaced by the fighting since early last year.
Other groups - including Islamist militias - continue to fight against the transitional government. They will not observe a ceasefire until Ethiopians leave the country. The Djibouti agreement is, potentially, extremely significant. Somalia's transitional federal government and the Islamist ARS have signed what the UN calls a "ceasefire-observance agreement" - a carefully worded reference to an earlier ceasefire that never came into effect. Unity government: The new accord sees Ethiopian troops leaving strategic areas of Somalia, and has them replaced first by African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi, and then later by a joint "police force". But significantly, they have also agreed to form a "unity government" including politicians from both sides. The emphasis, however, is on the agreement's potential. The sticking point in the past has been over the presence of the Ethiopians, so their departure would open new room for a more comprehensive peace plan. But there are three other armed groups opposing the current administration, and this deal does nothing to include them. Until they are brought into the process, diplomats say it is hard to see an end to Somalia's troubles. A separate process about to get under way in Nairobi brings together six East African countries under the regional group known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad). They are due to hold a summit in Nairobi later in the week, ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the Somali parliament. The two processes have not been co-ordinated, but they could still complement one another.