The Islamic Courts militia, which now control Somalia?s capital, have named a cleric as the head of a new parliament. Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys was appointed Saturday at a meeting of Islamic authorities in Mogadishu. Some in Washington consider Sheik Hassan Dahir a terrorist with suspected ties to Osama bin Laden?s al-Qaida network. However, the Islamic Courts have denied any links to terrorism or al-Qaida and say they are interested only in restoring law and order to Somalia. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga spoke with Mohamed Dare, a news editor for RadioAfrik in Mogadishu, about  the Islamic Council and the new head of parliament.

Dare said there is no clear evidence linking Sheik Hassan to al-Qaida. He said the new council will work as a parliament for Somalia but will not replace the Islamic courts; they will retain executive powers, while the council will do legislative work.

Dare said the Islamic officials at Saturday?s meeting decided to restructure their organization into a parliament to be called Council of Islamic Courts. He said 88 delegates were chosen for the parliament, which will oversee the country?s Sharia courts.

Dare also said that according to Islamic officials, Sheik Ahmed, the chairman of the Islamic courts, will supervise daily court operations and will head a committee to implement parliamentary decisions. The Islamic Courts intend to negotiate with clan leaders and other leaders in the areas controlled by the transitional government with a view to stabilizing the whole country,? he said.

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