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Somalia's Cabinet Nominations Already Causing Tension


In Somalia, a member of parliament says the process of nominating new Cabinet members is already causing tension among the government's top leadership. In an address to parliament on Monday, President Abdullahi Yusuf said a new cabinet will be named following the resignations of more than one-third of the current body.

Mr. Yusuf announced the move Monday in a speech to parliament. He says Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi will appoint a new 31-minister Cabinet within a week.

A day after Somalia's troubled transitional government was dissolved to better respond to Islamists' threat to its authority.

Prime Minister Gedi met Tuesday with influential clan leaders in Baidoa to discuss the composition of his new 31-member Cabinet.

Gedi, who retained his prime minister post, has been given a week by President Abdullahi Yusuf to nominate and present his list to parliament. On Monday, Yusuf, Gedi, and the speaker of parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, signed the Ethiopian-mediated compromise with hopes of ending a growing rift within the government about how to deal with the Islamists' rapid expansion of power in southern Somalia.

But a member of parliament, Zacharia Haji Mahmoud, tells VOA that Gedi may refuse to present his new Cabinet to parliament for approval. He says if Gedi does not submit the list, it is a move, which could bring the prime minister in direct conflict with the president.

"There are rumors that Mr. Ali has refused, although he signed this in a written document," he explained. "Today, I heard the president call him and he (Gedi) said, 'I am not going to submit my members to parliament, because this is a re-shuffle. It is not a new government.' So, there is a new crisis looming, actually."

The government was dissolved after more than 40 ministers resigned from parliament within the past month, protesting what they said was Gedi's lack leadership and in particular, his refusal to enter into power-sharing negotiations with Islamic leaders in Mogadishu.

Despite the crisis, Gedi has refused to resign and narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in parliament nine days ago.

The international community, including the United States and the United Nations, has urged interim leaders to do all they can to create a unity government with the Islamists and prevent the country from sliding into civil war.

In a radio broadcast Monday, President Yusuf called on the prime minister to appoint a Cabinet, which will be able to govern effectively and begin extending the influence of the interim government beyond the boundaries of Baidoa, 250 kilometers northwest of the capital.

Somalia's internationally-recognized transitional government was formed nearly two years ago in neighboring Kenya. But it has no troops and has been unable to move to Mogadishu. It has watched its authority in Somalia erode since June, when Islamic militias defeated factional warlords for control of Mogadishu and rapidly began expanding their power throughout southern Somalia.

Many Somalis have welcomed the Islamists for restoring law and order for the first time since the country's last functioning government fell in 1991. But some also fear that hardline leaders in the Islamic movement, some with alleged ties to terrorist groups, may attempt to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist theocracy.

The Islamic leaders deny they are trying to do anything other than to bring stability to the long-suffering country.

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