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Interim Somalia Gov't to Remain in Place Despite Scheduled End of Mandate - 2003-08-11


Somalia's Transitional National Government, whose term in office ends Tuesday, said it will remain in power until a new government is formed. Peace talks aimed at forming a new government for Somalia are continuing in Nairobi.

The transitional government, formed three years ago in Djibouti, will end its mandate August 12. Its spokesman, Ahmed Isse Awad, told VOA that the government intends to stay on until a new cabinet is appointed.

The delegates to the peace talks are currently drafting a constitution for Somalia and, once that is done, will chose 351 members of parliament, which, in turn, will elect the next president.

Some political observers foresee problems with the interim government overstaying its mandate, but Mr. Awad disagreed. "This is not a long period. It's about, perhaps, a maximum of one month. We're not talking about one year or two years or even months, you know. It's not a long period of time," he said.

The Kenyan mediator of the talks, Bethuel Kiplagat, said the issue of the provisional government's term should not affect the peace talks or the country itself. "Realistically, on the ground I don't think it's going to make much of a difference really," he said.

But a big concern among analysts is whether President Abdiqassim Salat Hassan, who had walked out of the talks earlier, will give up his post. He had said then he would not recognize any government coming out of the talks.

Mr. Awad does not give much weight to the president's threat. "Abdiqassim is making noises to the effect that he will not accept or recognize anything that comes out of here. But I think the prime minister, the speaker of the Parliament, and the majority of the TNG [Transitional National Government] are here to participate in the conference and therefore will hand over power," he said.

The Somali peace talks, which began last year in Kenya, bring together representatives from several African countries and more than 20 warlords who have been in battle since 1991.

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