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Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Somali 'prime minister' resigns

Abdullahi Yusuf and Mohamed Mahamud Guled (16 December 2008)
Mr Yusuf (left) has been criticised by African leaders for appointing Mr Guled

A Somali official named prime minister by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed last week has quit, saying his appointment was destabilising the government.

Mohamed Mahamud Guled said he had chosen to resign "so that I am not seen as a stumbling block to the peace process which is going well now".

Not long after the announcement, Mr Yusuf said he too intended to resign.

Mr Guled was appointed in defiance of Somali MPs, who said the dismissal of Nur Hassan Hussein had been illegal.

The president had clashed in recent months with Mr Nur over attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Islamist-led armed opposition.

Earlier this week, East African leaders imposed sanctions on President Yusuf.

At a meeting in Addis Ababa, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) said it would not recognise the unconstitutional appointment of Mr Guled, and gave its backing to Mr Nur.

The grouping also called on other countries to take similar measures.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Karen Allen says it is a sign of just how exasperated the international community has become with a country which has been in the grips of a power struggle for the past 17 years.

'Consultations'

President Yusuf told members of parliament who are loyal to him that he intended to hand in his resignation on Saturday.

I want the government to remain in power and differences among its leaders to be sorted out
Mohamed Mahamud Guled

Splits have paralysed his Western-backed administration at a time when Islamist insurgents appear to be growing stronger by the day.

Earlier, speaking to reporters in the town of Baidoa, Mr Guled said that "after evaluating the current situation", he had decided to resign as prime minister.

"I stood down so that I am not seen as a stumbling block to the peace process which is going on well now," he added.

"I want the government to remain in power and differences among its leaders to be sorted out."

Responding to a question on whether he initiated any projects during his short tenure, Mr Guled said that he had done nothing apart from engaging in "consultations that led to my resignation".

The former interior minister said he hoped the president would accept his decision, and that he would remain a member of parliament.

When Mr Yusuf sacked Mr Nur, he said it was because his government had been "paralysed by corruption, inefficiency and treason" and had failed to bring peace.

However, Somalia's parliament declared the sacking illegal and passed a vote of confidence in Mr Nur by a huge majority the following day.

Nur Hassan Hussein (file)
Nur Hassan Hussein said the president did not have the power to sack him

Mr Nur was appointed prime minister in November 2007 to replace Ali Mohamed Ghedi, who had clashed with the president after refusing to negotiate with armed Islamists and other opposition groups.

He was previously chairman of Somalia's Red Crescent Society.

The African Union and the UN secretary-general have both described the political in-fighting as disruptive to the peace process, currently under way in neighbouring Djibouti.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Ethiopian troops intervened two years ago to oust Islamists from Mogadishu, and install the transitional government.

But it is now in disarray and only controls parts of the capital and the town of Baidoa after recent advances by different Islamist groups.

The "irrevocable" departure of the Ethiopian troops from the country over the coming weeks has added to fears of further instability.

On Monday, the African Union agreed to keep its small peacekeeping force in place for a further two months, but did not say how it would cover for the imminent Ethiopian withdrawal.

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