Amid conflicting signals, search for peace goes on


MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP)—President Clinton’s diplomatic troubleshooter talked peace with representatives of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid on Tuesday, but gunmen fired on two U.N. outposts and attacked a relief convoy.

Remains believed to be those of an 18th American soldier killed in a bungled Oct. 3 raid were turned over to U.N. authorities. Capt. Tim McDavitt, a U.N. spokesman, said all missing Americans are now accounted for.

Officials released no details of the meeting between Robert Oakley and members of the Somali National Alliance, Aidid’s clan-based political group.

Oakley is pursuing a peace arrangment, and was also expected to press for the release of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant of Berlin, N.H., who was captured in the Oct. 3 raid.

Oakley also was expected to seek freedom for a Nigerian private captured earlier and also being held by Aidid.

In Washington, Secretary of State Warren Christopher reaffirmed that the United States is downplaying a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for Aidid’s arrest.He said the focus is now on trying to reach a political settlement.

‘‘The United Nations resolutions, of course, remain as they are, but it is a matter of where the focus of U.S. interest is,’‘ Christopher said.

The negotiations took place against a tense backdrop:

_ U.S. warplanes buzzed the capital at least three times. Reporters in a pool organized by U.S. forces saw two flyovers by F-18s and one by an A-6.

_ Gunmen still roamed the battered streets of Mogadishu and fired on two U.N. posts manned by Pakistanis during the night. The Pakistanis returned fire and were not hit, said Maj. David Stockwell, the U.N. military spokesman.

The attack shattered a three-day calm since Aidid issued a cease-fire order. Stockwell said the gunmen were believed to be from Aidid’s militia.

_ Bandits attacked a relief convoy from the aid group Irish Concern south of Mogadishu but it managed to reach the city without casualties, McDavitt said.

Aidid’s faction was reportedly split over whether to free its two hostages now or only after the United Nations released 32 Somali prisoners, including four key aides of Aidid.

There was also uncertainty over whether the faction members who met with Oakley had any real clout with the fugitive warlord.

McDavitt said the Somali detainees would be held until U.N. authorities were convinced they played no part in attacks against peacekeepers, and refused journalists’ requests to interview them.

He added there was no time frame for their release.‘‘It could take months,’‘ he said.

Stockwell said usually 30 to 40 Somalis were held by U.N. forces at any one time and stayed in detention for an average of 10 days.

‘‘Aidid’s people will certainly be held for more than 10 days,’‘ he said.

Despite opposition from Somali clan leaders, plans were proceeding for an Oct. 20 meeting on Somalia between Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and leaders of the Organization of African Unity, the Islamic Conference and the Arab League.

Aidid and his chief rival, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, have called for postponing the meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A clandestine radio station controlled by Aidid said Monday night that Somali leaders should have been consulted first, while Ali Mahdi’s station said militias should be disarmed first.

A U.N. spokesman, Farouk Mawlawi, said the objections appeared to stem from a misunderstanding of the meeting’s agenda, which he described as ‘‘simply to evaluate developments in Somalia.’‘

Boutros-Ghali fears Clinton’s plan to pull American forces out of Somalia by March 31 will encourage other countries to withdraw their contingents. There are 29,103 peacekeepers from 33 nations in Somalia, about 5,300 of them American.

An estimated 350,000 Somalis died from civil war and famine in 1992 before the U.S.-led military coalition arrived in December and restored order to most of the country. The humanitarian mission was turned over to the United Nations in May but quickly soured.

About half the U.N. force is bottled up in southern Mogadishu in urban guerrilla warfare with Aidid’s forces that has killed 31 Americans and 90 peacekeepers from other countries.