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Somali Lawmakers Approve New Cabinet

Somalia's parliament has approved the Cabinet chosen by newly-appointed Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali.

Lawmakers voted Saturday 397 to 21 in favor of Ali's choices, which include 18 ministers and deputy ministers and 9 state ministers. Ali told parliament the new government would focus on fighting corruption and improving Somalia's tenuous security situation.

The new government comes to power amid a strong insurgency by al-Qaida-linked militants who control much southern and central Somalia, while the government controls only parts of the capital, Mogadishu.

Earlier this week, Ali's choice to run the women's ministry was kidnapped by the al-Shabab militant group. The new minister, Asha Osman Aqil, lives in the heart of the rebel group's territory.

Most of the new appointees, like the prime minister, grew up outside Somalia. Ali is an American citizen and holds a masters degree from Harvard University. He previously taught economics at Niagara University in New York state.

The prime minister took office in late June, promising to fight terrorism and practice good governance. He also said the government will push for national reconciliation and do more to address humanitarian issues.

His predecessor, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, was forced out earlier this month by a deal struck between the speaker and President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The president and the former prime minister had been at odds over the future of Somalia's transitional government. The government's mandate was due to expire in August but President Sharif and the speaker agreed on a one-year extension for both parliament and federal institutions.

International donors are pressuring Somali leaders to chart a clear path toward stability. Somalia has not had a stable central government since 1991, and the government still relies on African Union peacekeepers to hold off Islamist militants.

Last month, a government spokesman said that Ali was chosen as prime minister for his charisma, education and government experience. Ali previously served as minister for planning and international cooperation, and as deputy prime minister.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.