June 9, 2006

US calls special meeting on Somalia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has called an
international meeting to discuss future strategy on Somalia,
the State Department said on Friday, only days after Islamists
seized the capital Mogadishu and ousted warlords widely
believed to have been supported by Washington.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 and
an interim government established in 2004 is too weak to enter
the capital.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United
States would convene the first meeting of a "Somalia Contact
Group" sometime next week in New York.

Officials from the United Nations, European and African
countries and other international organizations would take
part, McCormack said, but he gave no more details.

"The goal of this group is to promote concerted action and
coordination to support the Somalia transitional federal
institutions, and so we are going to be working with other
interested states and international organizations on this
matter," said McCormack.

The interim government has welcomed the defeat of warlords
viewed as undermining it, and its ministers have met members of
the Islamist side in Mogadishu.

The Islamist militia won control of Mogadishu on Monday and
advanced on Friday toward the secular warlords in other areas.
Washington has long viewed Somalia as a potential shelter for
international terrorists, but it said on Wednesday it might be
open to dealing with the militia.

Asked why the New York meeting was taking place now,
McCormack said only: "We think it's the right time."

"This is an opportunity for them to talk about what they
are doing individually and how we might coordinate," said
McCormack. The group would probably meet periodically, he said.

He said Somali groups were unlikely to attend the
discussions, but a full invitation list had not been drawn up.

Countries attending the meeting are expected to include
Norway, Britain and other European nations.