IGAD calls on leaders to attend retreat

Ministers from member states of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have urged Somali leaders to attend a proposed retreat to promote the peace process.

During a meeting in Nairobi on Monday, the ministers agreed to postpone the retreat - originally scheduled for 9 December - until 18 December "to allow further consultations", according to an IGAD joint communiqué issued.

The 10-day retreat will be launched in Mombasa by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is also the IGAD chairman. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano are expected to attend, the statement said.

The ministers warned Somali leaders that "any invited leader who does not attend the leaders' retreat shall be deemed not to be interested in the reconciliation process and will be treated as such".

The decisions made at the retreat would be fully endorsed by the IGAD country leaders, the statement said, adding that the ministers had also agreed that phase three of the peace talks would start immediately after the retreat.

The ministers also expressed concern over the financial situation of the conference and appealed for more funds to support the peace process.

The IGAD-sponsored talks began in October 2002 in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret, but were moved to Nairobi in February this year. They have been dogged by wrangles over issues such as an interim charter, the number of participants in the talks and the selection of future parliamentarians.