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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 16:41 GMT
Somali leader taken to hospital
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
President Yusuf has had a liver transplant
Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf has been taken to hospital in the Kenyan capital, the BBC has learnt.

He will not attend Wednesday's meeting of regional leaders and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ethiopia.

But his new prime minister Nur Hussein Hassan has told the BBC that Mr Yusuf's health is not critical. Others described his condition as "serious".

Mr Yusuf's Ethiopia-backed government is battling Islamist insurgents. The UN says one million people are homeless.

He was named president in 2004 after protracted peace talks in Kenya but has not been able to end years of conflict.

Ali Mohamed Sheik, a protocol officer for the Somali embassy in Kenya, told the AP news agency that Mr Yusuf had been able to walk from the plane to his car.

"He was walking, he was better than we expected."

But a Nairobi hospital official told the AFP news agency that Mr Yusuf's condition was "serious".

Nairobi hospital doctor Mauro Saio said the president was suffering from a chest infection.

Mr Yusuf, 72, is to be flown to London for treatment later this week.


The news comes as five ministers resigned from the cabinet named by Mr Nur.

The ministers complained that their clans were under-represented in the government.

Somalis at Afgoye displaced from fighting in Mogadishu - 2/12/2007
Some one million Somalis are living rough, the UN says

Mr Yusuf is a northerner, from Puntland, and a member of the Darod clan, who had been an army commander during Siad Barre's rule and subsequently a guerrilla leader.

He had a liver transplant in the 1990s and has not been in good health.

President Yusuf controversially enlisted the help of the Ethiopian army to oust the Union of Islamic Courts from the capital, Mogadishu in December 2006.

The past year has seen increasing levels of violence as the Islamists battle the Ethiopian-backed government, rendering Mogadishu too unsafe for the government which has been forced to operate out of Baidoa.

On Monday, UN humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said the international response to the situation in Somalia had been inadequate.

"This is obviously a very serious humanitarian situation in Somalia," he said.

Mr Holmes said the security situation was hampering relief efforts.

"There are checkpoints everywhere and aid agencies are stopped at these points and at times charged a lot of money."

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

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