HODDUR, Somalia -- Mohammed Noor Shakar, one of Somalia's most powerful clan leaders, called Monday for peace negotiations between warring factions leading to regional then national elections -- but only after United Nations forces have disarmed gunmen plaguing the East African nation.
Shakar, who joined other clan leaders several weeks ago at a meeting with U.S. special envoy Robert Oakley in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the rehabilitation of Somalia, said anarchy could not be stopped until weapons are confiscated by U.N. forces.
'In one day I have seen 115 people die in fighting,' Shakar told United Press International during an interview. 'I have never seen problems like this in Somalia.
'We would like the troops to take all the guns', he said.
The 85-year-old head of the Hadama clan and governor over 11 other sub-clans in the Hoddur region, said he gave Oakley that message during the meetings in Ethiopia.
But U.S.officials in Somalia and in Washington have said on numerous occasions that they would disarm Somali gunmen only if they posed an immediate threat.
'We weren't sent in to disarm the Somali people,' said Army Lt. Col. Steve Ritter, a spokesman in Mogadishu for the U.S. component for Operation Restore Hope.
He said U.N. commanders were 'looking at providing incentives' such as cash rewards for weapons that are voluntarily turned in, but 'nothing is firm yet.'
After disarmament, which the United Nations had insisted on during similar negotiations that ended civil wars in Cambodia and El Salvador, all clan leaders should convene a peace conference and select an interim leader for Somalia, Shakar said.
Shakar, whose red-dyed beard indicated he has made a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, said he is willing to negotiate with Gen. Mohammed Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohammed, two of his most powerful counterparts in other regions of Somalia.
'We should have a big peace conference to choose one interim leader, ' he said through an interpreter, 'I am willing to negotiate with Aideed and Ali Mahdi about the problems of Somalia.'
Shakar said he favored selecting regional leaders as a first step leading to 'free and fair' elections. Then, he said, Somalia should stage national elections.
'One president is possible,' he said.
Clan leaders have said they will meet with Oakley next month in Ethiopia.