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Somali Leaders Agree to Resolve Differences, Restore Government


Somalia's president and speaker of the parliament signed an agreement to put aside their differences and convene parliament on Somali soil. But the agreement did not resolve the major dispute between the two over where the new government will be based.

The five-point declaration begins by acknowledging that the division between President Abdullahi Yusuf and speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan caused, in its words, "serious damage" to how Somalia's government has carried out its duties and responsibilities.

Somalia's state minister of parliament and government relations Abdurahman Ibbi tells VOA the declaration is long overdue.

"You know, this is an historic agreement, and this is what all Somali people were expecting to have one day. They are responding actually with great appreciation, with all Somalis, because it was a deadlock. [This agreement is] what I can actually [call] the icebreaking now," he said.

The current 275-member administration was sworn into office near the end of 2004 following a two-year peace process held in neighboring Kenya.

Initially, members of parliament could not agree on when to return to Somalia from Kenya, citing safety concerns. Later, the discussion focused on where to relocate. For many months, the transitional government has been effectively split into two.

Mr. Yusuf and his faction have set up their offices in a city called Jowhar some 55 miles north of the capital Mogadishu, arguing that Mogadishu is still too unsafe for the location of the government.

Meanwhile, Mr. Adan and more than 100 parliament members have based themselves in Mogadishu, saying that the country's transitional national charter specifies that that is where the government should be based.

Thursday's agreement says parliament will convene within a month, but did not specify where that meeting is to take place.

State minister of parliament and government relations Mr. Ibbi says he is confident the issue of where parliament will meet will not be a problem.

"Actually they said the parliament should convene within 30 days in any place that might be agreed upon," he added. "They are going to give also the consultation of others."

The Reuters news agency quoted an official as saying the meeting would likely take place in what is described as the "neutral" city of Baidoa.

Since civil war broke out in 1991, militias loyal to clan and sub-clan-based factions have controlled parts of the country, with no central authority to provide law and order or basic services to the population. This is the country's 14th attempt to form such a central authority.