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Top US envoy for Africa meets Somaliland leader

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dahir Riyale
President Dahir Riyale Kahin of  Somaliland with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs  Jendayi Frazer
Washington (AFP) - The top US diplomat for Africa has met with the president of Somaliland, but the talks do not mean Washington is ready to recognize the breakaway region of Somalia, US officials said Thursday.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer had lunch with Somaliland president Dahir Riyale Kahin at the State Department on Monday, a US diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack stressed that the meeting did not imply US recognition of the northwestern coast region, which split from Somalia in 1991.

"There's no change in our policy position vis-a-vis recognition of Somaliland. We are not on the verge of recognizing Somaliland," McCormack told reporters.

"There is a process under way that the AU (African Union) is engaged in and we are going to be watching very closely that situation, but there's no change in our policy," he said.

McCormack said the meeting is part of Washington's policy of speaking with key players in Somalia in order to build democracy in the East Africa country, which has been plagued by civil unrest since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

"We think it's important to have as many political contacts as we can with responsible individuals in Somalia who have an interest in building up the democratic structures and institutions of Somalia and trying to take it from where it is to a much more hopeful future," he said.

"Certainly, Jendayi's meetings ... fall solidly in that category and it's a policy that we are going to continue to pursue," he said.

"We have interest in fighting terrorism in Somalia, as well as in the Horn of Africa. ... Anybody who has an interest in a more peaceful and democratic Somalia has a role to play in this process."

A former British protectorate, Somaliland united with the Italian Somalia in 1960. But the region unilaterally broke away five months after Barre was ousted in 1991.

The Washington Post reported last month that US officials were debating whether to shift US support from the fragile Somali government to the less volatile region of Somaliland.

But State Department officials oppose such a move, putting them at odds with Defense Department officials who say that forging ties with Somaliland could help bring stability to the region, the Post said.

The region of 3.5 million people, which adopted a provisional constitution in 1997 and ratified it four years later, boasts its own president, government, parliament, police force, penal code and currency.

Source: AFP, Jan 18, 2008


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