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Somali Politicians Open Meeting in Djibouti to Choose New President and Expand Parliament


Somalia's parliament continue its meeting Monday in neighboring Djibouti to talk about how to include the moderate Islamist opposition in a new transitional government that will hopefully bring peace to the war-ravaged country. The meeting is also expected to elect a new president.

The international community hopes that by expanding the government, the Transitional Federal Government would be able to convince hard line armed groups to stop fighting the interim government and the African Union (AU) peacekeepers in the capital Mogadishu.

From Djibouti, freelance journalist Abdoul Kader Youssouf told VOA expectations are high for this round of Djibouti meeting to yield positive results for peace in Somalia.

"The meeting started (today) Sunday; it was not very long, and you had speakers the first of whom was the Djibouti Minister of Communications representing the host country, Djibouti, followed by Ambassador Ahmedou Ould-Abddallah who is the U.N. Special Envoy for Somalia, then followed by the vice president. The overall note we could have about this introductory meeting is that Somali people are expecting that this process of reconciliation be completed; that these participants deliberate and come out of this two-day meeting with an inclusive parliament and leaders for a central government," he said.

Youssouf said some parties who have argued that the Somali conflict be resolved in Somalia and not Djibouti may not attend this week's meeting.

"Officially the number of people who were retained for this meeting for the parliament is 240 out of 275. So you see those who did not come are those who are arguing that the meeting should take place in Baidoa. And they are saying that there is a lot of external interferences in this process," Youssouf said.

While expressed the suspicion of some that this round of Djibouti meeting could turn out to be just another meeting with no concrete outcome.

"Actually you know a lot of people from the media and from the public are saying this is one more meeting. You know, we have seen hundreds of them and we don't know what new thing this one is going to bring. However based on the introduction notes that were made by various speakers, they put a lot of pressure on the participants of this actual meeting, and they say that if nothing concrete comes out of this meeting, then the international community will from now on stay away from getting involved in this issue," he said.

In addition to creating an inclusive parliament, this week's Djibouti meeting is also expected to elect a new president.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the moderate Islamist leader from the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, has reportedly declared his candidacy.

Youssouf said current Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein is also a contender for the presidency.

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