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Somalia Government, Opposition Agree on Power-Sharing


Negotiators say Somalia's interim government has signed a power-sharing agreement with a moderate wing of the nation's Islamist-led opposition.

The agreement was reached Wednesday during the latest round of U.N.-brokered talks in Dijibouti.

The plan calls for extending the mandate of Somalia's interim parliament for an additional two years and adds seats for the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.

The alliance is a relatively moderate group that split from more hardline Islamists, including the al-Shabab group. Al-Shabab leads a rising insurgency against the government.

Political observers say the power-sharing deal will have little effect on Somalia's stability, as the government has little power outside the capital, Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, police in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region say gunmen have kidnapped two western journalists. The victims are believed to be European.

Kidnappings of westerners are common in Somalia, where the victims are usually held for ransom and released.

The Islamist insurgents have taken over many towns and cities in recent weeks, including Elasha, just 18 kilometers outside of Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab is the military wing of the Union of Islamic Courts, an Islamic party that ruled much of Somalia in the second half of 2006. The party aims to impose Sharia law in the war-torn country.

Somalia has not had a stable central government since 1991 when a coup toppled President Mohamed Siad Barre. The country has endured years of violence and chaos since then.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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