By Sahra Abdi
NAIROBI (Reuters) - A United Nations special envoy urged Somalia on Wednesday to hold elections and bring an end to its transitional government, but it was unclear how such a vote could take place in the war-torn country.
Often classed among the world's failed states, Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
The country is embroiled in war with al Qaeda-linked rebels al Shabaab who want to topple its Western-backed government, and is rife with piracy off its lawless coast.
Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, asked Somali leaders to hold elections by August this year when a United Nations-mandated term for the transitional government expires.
Following a two-day meeting on political reforms and security held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Mahiga proposed that there be a vote for president and speaker of parliament by the August deadline.
The United Nations is at loggerheads with Somalia's transitional cabinet that extended its term to August 2012, saying it wants to ensure continuity in its fight against insurgents.
Somalia's parliament also has extended its term by three years.
The U.N. and Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) had differences over the staging of the conference, with Somali authorities saying it should have been held in the country. Somalia did not send anyone to the consultative meeting, saying it had not had any input on the agenda.
Mahiga said the meeting proposed extending the mandate of parliament for a period of two years to enable it complete key tasks, including preparations for national elections.
He said a follow-up meeting should be held in Somalia.
"This meeting is the start of the process," he said.
"We should meet again soon. It is proposed that the next meeting should take place in Somalia. And, hopefully, next time with the TFG," Mahiga said.
The government said the parliament speaker's participation at the meeting was against the wishes of the house itself.
Some regional authorities in Somalia attended the meeting., as well as the African Union, European Union, League of Arab States and Organization of the Islamic Conference.
A deal struck in 2009 deal envisioned the Somali government and parliament's mandate would expire on August 20 this year, by which time they were supposed to have enacted a new constitution and held elections. This has not yet happened.
(Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed in Mogadishu; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Michael Roddy)