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Obama Speaks With Acting Ethiopian PM

  • VOA News

Ethiopia's acting prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (2011 photo)

Ethiopia's acting prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (2011 photo)

U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Ethiopia's acting prime minister to promote "development, democracy, human rights, and regional security."

Obama spoke by phone late Thursday with Hailemariam Desalegn, who was named acting prime minister this week after longtime leader Meles Zenawi died at the age of 57.

The White House says Obama pledged continued U.S. "partnership" with Ethiopia, which under Meles has been a strong U.S. ally in the war against radical groups such as Somalia's al-Shabab.

Ethiopians are still awaiting word on when Mr. Hailemariam will be formally sworn in. Parliament was set to install him on Thursday but the session was canceled.

A government spokesman said Ethiopians wanted more time to mourn Meles, who led Ethiopia for 21 years. The late prime minister's funeral is scheduled for September 2.

On Tuesday, Communications Minister Bereket Simon rejected concerns about a power vacuum resulting from Meles' death. He said the country's leadership is united and the government is as "strong as ever."

Hailemariam had served as Meles' deputy since 2010.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Hailemariam Desalegn had briefed foreign diplomats in Addis Ababa Friday and assured them of a smooth transfer of power. The briefing was given by State Minister of Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos and dealt with details about Meles' funeral. VOA regrets the error.

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