ADDIS ABABA - Somalia's two most powerful warlords, Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, held separate meetings with Ethiopian officials yesterday which Addis Ababa hope will lead to face-to-face peace talks.
Sources close to the talks said they made little headway towards agreeing a joint meeting, with Mr Ali Mahdi angered by what they saw as the red-carpet treatment accorded General Aideed. Political analysts said the bickering was typical of a propaganda battle between the two men and was unlikely to scupper the talks, hosted by President Meles Zenawi one of the few men acceptable to all factions.
Both leaders boycotted a United Nations-sponsored humanitarian conference in Addis Ababa, which ended on Wednesday. Diplomats said Ethiopia's main concern was to create a climate for negotiations between the two men, whose bitter feud induced a famine that killed 300,000 people.
Officially the talks are to get the warlords to guarantee security for a relief operation paralysed by a four-month guerrilla war between General Aideed's men and UN forces - to get back on track.
Anticipating modest results, a goverment minister earlier billed the Addis Ababa meetings 'informal consultations'. But analysts will be watching closely for any sign that the talks might produce a security accord for Somalia, which has been without central authority since January 1991.
Hopes grow for Somali peace talks