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Somalis urged not to disrupt peace talks

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NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) -- Somalia's fractious warlords were warned by Kenyan mediators Wednesday against jeopardizing the peace process as it entered a sensitive power-sharing phase.

"The road map toward the successful conclusion of this process must not be held hostage by any single interest or issue or by any individual or group," Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka told a news conference.

"Leaders must refrain from any hostile propaganda, animosity and mutual suspicion that could trigger any setback," he added.

Somalia has been without a government for more than a decade following the ousting of President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Warlords from the main clans have jostled for power ever since and have sliced the African country into fiefdoms.

But at peace talks in Kenya last week, militia bosses signed an accord on a transitional charter which said clans should choose a parliament that would in turn elect a president.

The president would then appoint a government to shepherd the Horn of Africa country of more than seven million people to elections after a five-year transitional period.

The elders of the country's four main clans and one smaller clan are heading to Kenya this month to choose the parliament's 275 members.

Diplomats expect considerable friction because no fewer than 50 warlords and community leaders are competing to be president, many of whom are the militia bosses whose feuding over the past 12 years has led to widespread violence.

Only a few of the warlords enjoy large support in their clans and they may be tempted to put on displays of force to remind elders of their relevance, diplomats say.

Musyoka said anyone disrupting the process would be punished by what he called targeted sanctions.

"The international community will not stand by and watch these efforts undermined or derailed by any group or leader bent on promoting their selfish and narrow interest," he said.

The latest round of peace talks has dragged on for 14 months, marred by periodic walkouts by warlords angry at perceived insults by rivals or interference in the process by regional powers.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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