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Somali PM optimistic about dialogue with Islamist rebels
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Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdurashid Ali Sharmarke, on Saturday said the Somali government is in dialogue with "key" individuals in the opposition and he expected positive results from the talks.

The Somali government is fighting deadly insurgency with Islamist rebels since it returned to the capital early this year following an UN-sponsored talks in Djibouti late 2008 which culminated with the election of the current president and the formation of the government of national unity led by Sharmarke.

The prime minister, who was speaking in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, said there were both "direct and indirect" dialogues going on between the government and the opposition.

"We will continue to engage the opposition. We try to discuss directly or indirectly and I think there have been a lot of progress in our talk. I hope the results may be seen later on but we continue to have a meaningful dialogue," said the prime minister.

Sharmarke acknowledged that there are difficulties in the talks with the opposition groups who are basically two main Islamist factions of Al-Shabaab and the Hezbul Islam.

The prime minister said there will always be going to be "elements" within the opposition that as he put it "will not agree to anything", but he stated that as a government it was their responsibility to reach out to those who were "still out of the ( peace) process of Djibouti".

The Somali prime minister was hopeful that the opposition groups would come to terms with the fact that the only way out was to join hands and move forward.

The official also talked about the current security situation, African Union peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the bilateral relations between China and Somalia, and the unfulfilled pledged funds from the international community.

Sharmarke, whose beleaguered government is confined to parts of Mogadishu and fights off daily attacks from insurgent groups poised to topple it, said his government was doing all it could to improve security in Mogadishu.

He acknowledged that the latest deadly twin suicide car bombings against AMISOM headquarters in Mogadishu was a "setback" and nothing could be done to prevent such attacks.

"I think you can hardly prevent such suicide bombings. I think you can only minimize the effects of such things. When one decides to blow himself up, I think very little can be done," the prime minster told Xinhua.

The suicide attacks which killed nearly 21 people, mostly peacekeepers, and wounded as many as 40 others, was claimed by Al- Shabaab Islamist rebels who along with the Hezbul Islam faction, control much of southern and central Somalia.

Meanwhile, the Somali prime minister praised what he called "the long and historic ties" between the Somali and Chinese peoples and governments and urged the further strengthening of the ties between the two nations.

He sent congratulation to the government and people of China as they celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

"I would urge people and government of China to continue to do their own progress to continue to grow their economy. I think growth in China is a growth for the entire world," he told Xinhua.

He, however, described as unfortunate the international community's inability to deliver its pledged funds to support the Somali government and AU peacekeeping forces.

The official hoped that the 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping forces, of which nearly 5,000 are currently on the ground in Mogadishu, would soon be fully deployed and that their mandate, which is now limited, would be strengthened to enable them to fight Islamist rebels.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2009)

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