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Somalian PM Rejects Sit of Parliament
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A rift has again emerged in Somalia following a decision by the president and speaker to convene the parliamentary session at home for the first time since it was created in neighboring Kenya about two years ago.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi has reportedly criticized the decision to call a key meeting of parliament in the town of Baidoa, 250 km southwest of Mogadishu later this month, saying the town is unsafe and that he was not consulted.

President Abdullahi Yusuf and Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan announced on Monday in Nairobi after consultations that the assembly session would be held in Baidoa on February 26.

Analysts said on Wednesday the PM's revelations show continued divisions within Somalia's transitional administration, despite anagreement by the president's and speaker's factions to end a rift that has paralyzed efforts to restore government in the lawless country.

Gedi said the decision to convene the first meeting of parliament on Somali soil in Baidoa had been made unilaterally by the parliament speaker.

"The situation of Somalia today cannot be addressed individually. The president was neutral but the speaker ignored a tangible number of members of parliament," he said.

The announcement, which was made in the presence of interim president, came after days of consultations between the speaker and the president in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Making the announcement, President Yusuf said he supported the decision on the parliament's planned meeting, and promised to travel to the southwestern town to officially open the session.

"I want to make it clear that I fully support the decision to convene the parliamentary session in Baidoa and will travel there to officially open it in accordance with the charter," Yusuf said.

Analysts and diplomats say the prime minister's change of mind stems from fears that he will face a vote of no-confidence at the first session -- a charge Gedi denies.

Gedi, who previously was allied to Yusuf's faction, said his priority was to ensure the security and stability of the Horn of Africa country.

Diplomats had said that fears among Somali factions that the government may be dissolved or key figures removed at the meeting may hamper its chances.

Yusuf and Gedi have been based in Jowhar, 90 km north of Mogadishu, while the speaker, backing by key Mogadishu-based faction leaders, has been in the capital, Mogadishu.

Baidoa is seen as a compromise between the two factions and preparations have already begun to clean up the town in readiness of the first parliamentary session.

Hundreds of Baidoa residents have gone onto the streets to celebrate the announcement.

Somali officials here said several lawmakers from Mogadishu andNairobi are traveling to Baidoa within the next three days as an advance party to lay the groundwork for the meeting.

The Somali leaders have been divided from the time the government was sworn-in mid-2005 with the speaker often accusing President Yusuf of undermining his authority granted in accordance with the interim constitution, the Somali Federal Charter.

The first parliamentary sitting in Somalia, analysts say, wouldbe a first for the fledgling Somali government since returning home from exile in June 2005 after its formation following a protracted peace negotiation process which produced a clan-based power-sharing accord.

The speaker is believed to control the Mogadishu warlords and is seen as a major power if the government is to gain support of the Mogadishu merchants and warlords, who have divided the countryinto a patch of fiefdoms for revenue administration.

The Horn of Africa nation has been run by warlords since the ousting of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

The US sent troops into Somalia in 1992 ahead of a UN force intended to restore order and open aid channels. 

(Xinhua News Agency Febuary 1, 2006)

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