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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 12:58 GMT
Cheering Somalis welcome leaders
President Yusuf Ahmed (left) and Prime Minister Ghedi
The Somali leaders were flying out in separate planes
Somalis have greeted exiled President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Ghedi on their arrival for a landmark visit.

Thousands holding Somali flags and placards lined the 15km stretch between the airfield where the leaders arrived and Jowhar town, north of Mogadishu.

They are heading a large delegation who will be examining the possibility of relocating the government from Kenya.

"Welcome to your country," read one of the banners in the chanting throng.

It is unclear if the leaders will visit Mogadishu during the visit because of security concerns. Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991.

Since then, rival warlords, many of whom are now ministers, have battled for control of the country, and Somalia has been divided into a patchwork of fiefdoms.

Cheers

The Somali leaders flew out from Nairobi, Kenya, in separate planes and touched down by 12.30pm (0930 GMT) at an airstrip in Jowhar, 90 km (55 miles) north of the capital.

About 300 supporters who had gathered at the airfield to welcome them were dancing and chanting, says the BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in Jowhar.

"The people of Jowhar welcome the transitional federal government," read a placard.

"Long live the president and the prime minister," another said.

As he stepped off the plane, President Yusuf Ahmed received a 21-gun salute from a single cannon as police in military uniform stood to attention.

The delegation then headed to the centre of Jowhar, the provincial capital of the Middle Shabeele region, amid the cheers and applause of crowds of Somalis lining the road.

Details of their visit have not been disclosed in advance for security reasons, reports the BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan.

Problems in securing the right type of aircraft to take off from short runways had delayed the delegation's 10-day visit.

Demonstrations

Mr Ghedi has said the speed of the move to Somalia depends on how soon donors meet a six-month relocation budget of $77m. Only about $8m has been received so far.
Facts and figures about life in Somalia

According to the United Nations, most of that money will be spent on setting up a new national police force to establish law and order in a country accustomed to anarchy.

Another portion will be for the disarmament of Somalia's notorious militia and over $1m is budgeted for the cost of moving 275 Somali MPs from Kenya back home.

Some ministers have already visited Mogadishu and other areas of their country.

They have discussed the controversial deployment of foreign peacekeeping soldiers to Somalia.

Mr Ghedi has insisted that foreign troops be present on the ground to create secure conditions for the new government.

The African Union has authorised the deployment of thousands of troops from several regional countries to help with the relocation.

But Ethiopia's offer to send troops as part of the force has sparked large demonstrations in Mogadishu.




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