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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 17:32 GMT
'Historic' meeting of Somali MPs
Militiamen in Mogadishu
Mogadishu is controlled by thousands of gunmen
Somalia's parliament has met inside the country for the first time since it was formed in Kenya more than a year ago.

The meeting was held in a food warehouse in the central town of Baidoa, far from the dangers of the capital Mogadishu.

It is the latest attempt to restore authority in the country after 15 years of factional fighting.

Some 205 of the 275 MPs were present at the meeting. But several powerful Mogadishu warlords did not attend.

The warlords are part of a group allied to Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan unhappy with President Abdullahi Yusuf.

The two sides are split over whether Mogadishu is safe enough to host the interim government, and whether to keep foreign peacekeepers.

Siting the first meeting in Baidoa was seen as a compromise between the two factions.

"This is a historical opportunity for the Somalia parliament, government and the people," President Yusuf told the assembly.

"Let us choose between serving our people or being put on the bad list of history as people who promoted confrontation among Somalis and lacked the skills to administer a modern Somalia."

Calls for unity

President Yusuf, along with Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi and their allies, flew in from their base in the town of Jowar, 90km (56 miles) to the north of Mogadishu.

They want to base the government in Jowar, while Mogadishu remains lawless and over-run by thousands of militiamen.

But the Mogadishu faction insists the president has no authority to change Somalia's capital.

The two sides are also in dispute over whether foreign peacekeepers are needed to provide security in the country.

The meeting in Baidoa was symbolically important, with the future location of the government the top priority, a BBC correspondent in Somalia said.

Held in a food warehouse, with chairs and desks transported from Kenya by the UN, it was surrounded by tight security.

Mr Yusuf urged MPs to unite together and "work on national security, which is the basis for the country's peace".

There has been no effective central government in Somalia since 1991 and rival warlords have divided the country between them.

The new transitional parliament, formed in Kenya in late 2004, is the 14th attempt to restore peace and security to the country.


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