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Somali Calls For Peace After Release From UN Detention

OSMAN ATO, chief financier and right-hand man of Somali warlord Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed, called yesterday for talks between General Aideed's Somali National Alliance (SNA) and the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM).

Mr. Ato, released from UN detention on Wednesday, said the time had come to end hostilities in the broken Horn of Africa country and for dialogue with the UN.

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``I call upon all Somalis to forget and forgive the past and start working toward a new era of reconciliation,'' he told a news conference.

Ato called on the United States and other Western nations to help in the process of reconciliation and said the UN should also be involved.

``I hope UNOSOM now limits its mission to neutrality between the factions, that it facilitates the peace process, and that it assists giving our country humanitarian aid,'' he said.

Ato's message was in sharp contrast to Aideed's latest statements. On Monday, Aideed demanded an immediate end to the UN operation and withdrawal of its troops. He denounced the UN for mounting a military and political campaign to recolonize Somalia, killing some 3,000 Somalis. He said the UN role should focus on reconstruction and humanitarian aid. Ato declined comment on Aideed's remarks.

This week, Aideed's militia took over four strong points after UN forces abandoned them, leading many to believe fighting would follow the withdrawal of US forces.

After his arrest, Ato said, UN forces kept him and other detainees on an island off southern Somalia in ``inhumane conditions.'' A delegate of the Red Cross said it had intervened with the UN to improve conditions of detention on the island.

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