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Sides in Somalia Conflict Remain Deeply Divided Despite Peace Deal 

Somalia's Ethiopia-backed transitional government and some opposition figures have formally signed a peace deal reached two months ago at U.N.-led talks in Djibouti. But with the leadership on both sides deeply divided, the pact is not expected to stem the ongoing violence in Somalia. VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu has that story from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

A U.N. press statement says Somalia's transitional government and a faction of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia formally signed the peace agreement late Monday in Djibouti.

In addition to the joint call for the replacement of Ethiopian troops in Somalia by a U.N. stabilization force in the coming months, the United Nations says the warring parties promised to continue the political dialogue and they strongly condemned acts of violence against innocent civilians.

The signing should have prompted celebrations in Somalia, where more than 8,000 people have been killed and more than one million uprooted in 19 months of fighting pitting Ethiopian and government soldiers against Islamist-led insurgents.

Instead, a member of Somalia's interim parliament, Issa Waheliye Moalim, says there are fresh concerns that the government could disintegrate amid an escalating conflict between Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf and interim Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.

"Almost all institutions are paralyzed," said Issa Waheliye Moalim. "It [the government] is very weak. Also security-wise, it is getting weak day-by-day. You see what is happening in Mogadishu. If the government was strong and we are working, that should not happen."

The rift in the Somali leadership emerged last month after Prime Minister Hussein fired powerful factional leader Mohammed Dheere as mayor of Mogadishu, accusing the mayor of financial mismanagement and of failing to improve security in the Somali capital.

President Yusuf opposed Mr. Hussein's decision and the president's supporters in parliament have threatened to suspend the prime minister.

Both men were summoned to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where they met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Saturday to discuss the political crisis. Somali and Ethiopian officials have declined to comment on the meeting.

In June, disagreements over the Djibouti peace talks split the leadership of the Eritrea-based opposition alliance between moderate Islamist leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and hard-line cleric Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys.

Ahmed's faction endorsed the June 9 agreement in Djibouti. But Aweys and his supporters, including a militant Islamist group called the Shabab, rejected it, saying the deal failed to call for an immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia.

A 90-day cease-fire, stipulated in the June 9 agreement, was never implemented, further deepening a humanitarian crisis that aid workers say is among the worst in the world.

Ethiopia intervened in Somalia in late 2006 to oust an Islamist movement led by Ahmed and Aweys and to install Somalia's secular government in power in Mogadishu.