Page last updated at 06:33 GMT, Saturday, 31 January 2009

Islamist elected Somali president

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed
Mr Ahmed has said he wants to rebuild Somalia's social services

Moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has been elected Somalia's new president, after a secret ballot of members of parliament.

Mr Ahmed comfortably won a majority in a second round of voting after one of the frontrunners, Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, withdrew.

The election followed the resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

MPs met in Djibouti because of instability in Somalia, where Islamist militias control much of the country.

Mr Ahmed was until recently the leader of an opposition movement accused of having links to al-Qaeda.

The BBC's Peter Greste in the region says he won the election as the one man who may be able to straddle the political extremes between the secular warlords, who until now have dominated government, and the Islamist al-Shabab militia.

He is due to be sworn in as president later on Saturday, before representing Somalia at an African Union summit in Ethiopia over the weekend.

Earlier this week, 149 new opposition members from the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), which is led by Mr Ahmed, were sworn in to parliament.

But al-Shabab says it will not recognise the new government.

1.3 million displaced
3.5 million need food aid
- 43% of the population
No central government since 1991

For the presidential election, each candidate was expected to present $2,000, a CV and official documents.

Parliament is meant to relocate from Djibouti to the Somali capital Mogadishu within days.

But Mogadishu is facing an insurgency and there are not enough AU peacekeeping troops to protect all the MPs, correspondents say.

It is thought that some will stay in Djibouti and others will relocate to Kenya.

Al-Shabab militiamen control the former seat of parliament, Baidoa, and many other parts of central and southern Somalia.

Mr Yusuf resigned as president in December. He had been accused by the prime minister and parliament of being an obstacle to peace in the country.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991, and the northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland have broken away to govern themselves.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in successive waves of violence.

More than a million people have fled their homes.

And 43% of the population - 3.5 million - need food aid, donors say.

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