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Somali Prime Minister Conciliatory After Talks About His Future


Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has suggested he might be willing to step aside to avoid a divisive political struggle in parliament. His conciliatory comment came near the end of a three-day visit to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he spoke about his political future with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa has details.

Prime Minister Gedi's visit to the Ethiopian capital had fueled speculation he might resign as Somalia's parliament debated a no-confidence move by President Abdullahi Yusuf.

In a brief meeting with reporters after two days of conversations with senior Ethiopian officials, Mr. Gedi indicated he would step down if he loses a vote of confidence in parliament that could come as early as next week.

"Let us reach that point. A vote of confidence in parliament is a legal matter," he said. "And we all abide by the law under the regulations, but we cannot project what is next before it takes place."

Mr. Gedi denied there is anything personal about his quarrel with President Yusuf, and said he is willing to submit to the rule of law.

"The destiny of the nation cannot be the will of the prime minister or the will of the president," he said. "There is a rule of law. There is a charter and a regulation governing the whole national system, so this difference in opinions and interpretations will be sorted out by the parliament."

Mr. Gedi was asked about the fate of the United Nations aid official seized this week in Mogadishu. He declined to say why the head of the World Food Program in the Somali capital, Idris Osman, is being held, but he said Osman is in the custody of government officials, and will be released if he is found not to have violated any law.

Prime Minister Gedi again acknowledged that his country remains in the throes of a vicious insurgency, and appealed to feuding clans to settle their disputes peacefully. He accused neighboring Eritrea of fueling the conflict.

"External terrorists are engaged in Somalia," he said. "A very good example is government of Eritrea fully committed and engaged in the war in Somalia. And there are many other external stakeholders."

Ethiopia sent troops to Somalia late last year to drive out Islamist militants who had taken power in Mogadishu and other parts of the country. But Ethiopian leaders are said to be increasingly concerned by the ongoing insurgency and the mounting cost of its troop presence there, both in financial and human terms.

Military experts says Ethiopia has as many as 50,000 soldiers in Somalia.

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