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Somali Leaders Negotiating for New PM


The president of Somalia's transitional government has been meeting with Somali political and clan leaders to settle on a candidate to head the government, following the resignation Monday of interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi. Derek Kilner has more from VOA's East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

President Abdullahi Yusuf's choice of a new prime minister will have to take into account the country's clan dynamics.

Mr. Yussuf is facing increasing opposition from leaders of the Hawiye clan, the country's largest. Former Prime Minister Gedi is a member of the Hawiye, but did not have widespread backing among the group. Mr. Yussuf's Darod clan is Somalia 's second largest.

Somali lawmaker Awad Ashureh says legislators are debating a proposal to do away with a rule stating that only members of parliament can be chosen to serve as prime minister or cabinet members. Ashureh says it may be difficult to attain the required two-thirds majority in parliament to pass the measure.

"The only barrier we are having now is the number that are needed to vote for the amendment, which needs nearly 184 members of parliament to vote for that," he said.

Until a successor is named, Salim Aliyow Ibrow, who was Mr. Gedi's deputy, is serving as acting prime minister.

"Our government is a caretaking government; we will deal with daily activities," he said. "Also, the term is very short. I will try my best to create confidence among Somalis."

While legislators discussed the future of the government in the town of Baidoa, where the parliament is located, fighting continued in the capital, Mogadishu.

The United Nations said Tuesday that a new wave of 36,000 people fled the capital following fighting in recent days. And 40 international aid organizations operating in Somalia issued a statement warning of a deteriorating humanitarian situation in south-central Somalia.

The presence of Ethiopian troops is unpopular with many Somalis. But Ethiopia has had the strong backing of both President Yusuf and former Prime Minister Gedi. Acting Prime Minister Ibrow says that Ethiopian troops are likely to remain for the time being.

"The Ethiopian troops depend on the arrival of AU troops in Somalia," he noted. "But, now, we don't see any way to remove Ethiopian forces from Mogadishu."

While a large African Union peacekeeping force has been authorized for Somalia, only about 1,600 Ugandan troops have arrived.

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