Somalia's prime minister says he won't quit office

AP News
Posted: Jun 14, 2011 7:32 AM
Somalia's prime minister says he won't quit office

Somalia's prime minister said Tuesday that he would not resign despite an agreement calling for his ouster to allow for a transitional government.

Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said at a news conference that he would stay in office out of respect for an outpouring of support by Somalis who are opposed to his removal.

A recent U.N.-backed deal called for Mohamed to resign within a month to pave the way for the formation of a new government. Hundreds in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu protested his resignation.

"Considering people's will and their support for my government I will not resign," said Mohamed. "I will resign only when the parliament fires me from my position."

Hundreds of people, including government soldiers, have taken to Mogadishu's streets to protest the deal signed by the country's bickering president and Parliament speaker. At least two people, a soldier and a teenager, died during protests on Friday.

The protesters have instead called for President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and Parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden _ who cut the deal last week in Uganda _ to resign.

Mohamed's refusal to comply with the agreement signed by Ahmed and Aden will complicate the touchy political situation in Mogadishu.

The international community has been pressuring Ahmed and Aden to reach agreement before the fragile government's term expires in August. The U.N. Security Council warned last month that the leaders risk losing financial support if they fail to end their bickering.

The two leaders have been locked for months in a dispute over what to do when the government's term expires. Ahmed asked for an extra year in power because he said elections were distractions as the country was in a state of war with Islamist insurgents. Aden insisted on following the country's interim charter calling for presidential and speaker elections before Aug. 20.

But the leader's differences dissipated last week when they agreed to extend the government's term by a year and postpone elections until next year.

By law, the agreement has to pass through Parliament, but some fear Ahmed and Aden will try to bypass lawmakers.

Mohamed, a Somali-American, is popular with many Somalis because he has managed to pay salaries to government workers and soldiers and has fought corruption.

In his seven-month stint, Mohamed's government has wrested large swaths of territory from al-Qaida-linked militants in Mogadishu and southern parts of the country.

The government once controlled only a couple square miles (kilometers) near Mogadishu's seaside airport. African Union officials say pro-Somali troops now control half the city after a major offensive launched against al-Shabab.