US and UN Search for Political Answer

PRESIDENT Clinton's envoy to Somalia arrived in Mogadishu with hopes of finding a diplomatic solution to end fighting between UN peacekeepers and faction leader Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed's militia.

Robert Oakley's arrival in the Somali capital Sunday coincided with a demonstration by thousands of Somalis shouting angry slogans against the United Nations and the United States.

A UN official in Mogadishu, speaking on condition of anonymity, said General Aideed's reported offer Saturday for a cease-fire appeared to be a way of opening dialogue with Mr. Oakley.

Militiamen loyal to Aideed have clashed with peacekeepers since June. At least 15 American soldiers were killed Oct. 3 in one of the fiercest battles yet. Two more bodies believed to be those of US servicemen were recovered Friday. Aideed said 315 Somalis were killed and the Red Cross said more than 700, including many women and children, were wounded in the 15-hour battle.

Oakley met Saturday with President Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, who has a mandate from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to handle international negotiations on Somalia.

The official Ethiopian News Agency said Mr. Meles told Oakley that Ethiopia and its neighbors were pleased with the new efforts to reach a political solution.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali will hold talks on Somalia Thursday in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, current chairman of the OAU, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said yesterday.

In addition, Mr. Boutros-Ghali on Sunday said African, Arab, and Muslim leaders would meet with him on Oct. 20 in Ethiopia to seek a plan to prevent Somalia from collapsing into anarchy after the US withdraws in March, The New York Times reported in yesterday's editions.

Those who have agreed to attend include Mubarak; Meles; and the secretaries general of the OAU, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the report said.

Boutros-Ghali indicated he was worried that other countries would pull their UN peacekeeping troops out of Somalia when the US departs.

On Saturday, American and British media in Mogadishu reported that Aideed said he was ordering his militiamen to stop fighting. The fugitive Somali leader, speaking on his clandestine radio, also said he would accept an independent investigation of the June ambush that killed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers.

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