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Somali President Denies Reports of Serious Health Problems

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf is denying reports that he is in serious condition at a Kenyan hospital.

Mr. Yusuf was flown to Nairobi Tuesday. Kenyan sources tell VOA the president is suffering from a stomach ailment, while other reports say he is suffering from bronchitis and is using an oxygen mask.

In a telephone interview Wednesday with VOA's Somali service, Mr. Yusuf said people should ignore what he called baseless rumors that he is near death. He said he takes periodic trips abroad for check-ups and that this trip is one of those.

Mr. Yusuf confirmed reports that he will travel next to London for a further medical exam. The Somali president had a liver transplant in Britain 11 years ago.

If Mr. Yusuf were to die in office, parliament speaker Sheik Adan Mohamed Nur would take over temporarily while parliament chooses a new president.

The president's health has cast further uncertainty over the Somali government. Five members of Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein's Cabinet resigned this week, less than 48 hours after they were appointed.

The ministers said their clan was not adequately represented in the new government. In the interview today, President Yusuf said there is no clan that did not get its share.

Prime Minister Hussein, who was appointed last month, has said he will try to promote reconciliation among Somalis as a violent Islamist-led insurgency continues to rage in Mogadishu.

In other news, the World Food Program says the Somali government has lifted a ban on aid operations in the Lower Shabelle region. The WFP publicly complained about the restrictions on Tuesday, saying it was not able to load two ships full of supplies at the port of Merka.