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Somalia's President, Prime Minister to End Dispute


Following more than a week of Ethiopia-mediated talks, Somalia's feuding president and prime minister have reportedly agreed to end their political dispute, which had jeopardized the stability of the country's transitional government. A government spokesman says the two leaders have settled their differences and are prepared to work together again. But as VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, reports from Somalia suggest the leadership crisis is far from over.

Government spokesman Abdi Hahi Gobdon says the two leaders agreed on several issues during their talks in Addis Ababa. But the most important involves Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf's decision to accept the dismissal of Mogadishu's mayor and the regional governor, Mohamed Dheere.

"They agreed to change the governor of the Banadir region and the mayor of Mogadishu," he said. "The president, he accepted now. I do not have exactly what was agreed, but that is the most important."

For months, President Yusuf is said to have disapproved of Prime Minister Nur Adde Hassan Hussein's attempts to reconcile with opposition groups leading a bloody anti-government, anti-Ethiopian insurgency in Somalia.

Simmering differences between the two leaders widened into an open feud late last month when Prime Minister Hussein fired Mogadishu mayor Mohamed Dheere for financial mismanagement and for failing to secure the Somali capital.

President Yusuf vehemently opposed the dismissal, arguing that only he had the power to act in such cases. Ten ministers allied with President Yusuf resigned in protest and supporters of the president in parliament have threatened to pass a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.

Alarmed by the situation, neighboring Ethiopia, which sent tens of thousands of troops in Somalia in late 2006 to oust Somalia's Islamist movement and install the transitional federal government in power, summoned both Somali leaders to Addis Ababa for urgent talks.

In an interview last week with the British Financial Times newspaper, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin called the political infighting the biggest obstacle to bringing stability to Somalia.

U.S.-based Somalia analyst Michael Weinstein says he is convinced that cash-strapped and war-weary Ethiopia wants to establish conditions in Somalia, which can allow it to withdraw the bulk of its troops as soon as possible.

Weinstein says Foreign Minister Seyoum's comments may reflect Addis Ababa's growing impatience with President Yusuf, who has repeatedly resisted any moves to share power and has caused political instability before. Last October, Mr. Yusuf ousted Ali Mohamed Gedi as prime minister after a rift opened up between them over oil-exploration contracts with foreign firms.

Despite the criticisms from Ethiopia, Weinstein says President Yusuf is not likely to back off from attempts to retain as much power as he can.

"Yusuf is banking on that they are not going to drop recognition of the TFG [transitional federal government], which is the only threat that really matters to him," he said. "And second of all, he believes he can buy off parliament. There is a lot of disaffection with Nur Adde among the old MP-warlord interests. And so he thinks he can swing parliament behind him."

Ethiopia's backing of Mr. Yusuf played a critical role in his rise to the presidency of the interim government in 2004.