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Somali Prime Minister Resigns, Reversing Pledge to Stay

Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed speaking in the capital, Mogadishu, Sunday, June 19, 2011
Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed speaking in the capital, Mogadishu, Sunday, June 19, 2011

Somalia's prime minister says he is resigning, reversing a pledge he made last week to stay in office after an outpouring of support by Somalis opposed to his departure.

Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed told reporters Sunday his decision to leave office was made to avert political collapse in his homeland. He said his departure is "in the interests of the Somali people." Mr. Mohamed said he will remain in Mogadishu to support a new government.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed immediately appointed a caretaker prime minister, who is set to serve until a permanent replacement is named within 30 days.

A United Nations-backed deal earlier this month called for Mr. Mohamed to resign within a month to clear the way for the formation of a new government.

The so-called Kampala Accord, mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, was meant to break the political deadlock between the president -- a former Islamist rebel leader -- and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, who covets the top job. The deal was aimed at establishing a roadmap for national elections and a new constitution.

The two Somali rivals agreed June 9 to postpone their nation's presidential elections for one year and hold the vote by August 2012. They both are expected to seek the presidency when the polls take place.

The departing Prime Minister Mohamed has held office for a little more than seven months, but has received local and international praise during that time for his straightforward approach to governance and his desire to rise above the country's clan-based politics.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government in 20 years, since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The insurgent group al-Shabab has waged war against the current administration since 2007, and controls much of southern Somalia.

However, the government in recent months has regained control of parts of Mogadishu with the help of U.N. peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi.

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