Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Somalia 'to close embassies in Europe'

Ali Ahmed Jama Jengeli
The government relies on the international community for funding

Somalia's hard-pressed government will close three of its five embassies in Europe because of a funding crisis, the foreign minister has told the BBC.

Ali Ahmed Jama Jengeli said cabinet discussions on the issue were ongoing but an announcement would be made soon.

The cash-strapped interim government was seeing if "friendly nations" could help finance some of them, he said.

The UN-backed coalition government formed a year ago only controls a few parts of the country - in the capital.

Somalia has been wracked by civil war since 1991 and has has had no working central government since then.

Government forces are under daily attack from hardline Islamist insurgents, some of whom have links to al-Qaeda and who hold sway over much of southern and central Somalia.

Sources have told the BBC the embassies most likely to be closed are the ones in Paris, Berlin and Somalia's mission to the UN in Geneva.

Correspondents say the closures may further isolate the government, which is reliant on the international community for its survival.

Many of Somalia's embassies in the West closed years ago, including those in Washington and London.

"For the embassy in London we were paying £11,000 a month for the rent alone," said Mr Jengeli, whose father was Somali ambassador to London in the 1960s.

"Therefore it's inconceivable to have these embassies open if you don't have adequate funding."

The foreign minister told the BBC Somali service that only essential staff would be retained in the embassies that were to remain open - thought to be those in Rome and Brussels.

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