Somali MPs try to remove Prime Minister Gedi

By Guled Mohamed

MOGADISHU - Somali legislators are trying to remove Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi from power, in a move government sources said was aimed at persuading rival powerful Islamists to enter peace talks.

A lawmaker said a vote of no confidence in Gedi had been presented to the speaker and would be debated on Saturday.

Analysts see peace talks and power sharing as the only hope for averting war in Somalia, but Gedi's position would be vulnerable in any shared government as President Abdullahi Yusuf would likely offer the prime minister's post to the Islamists.

In another development boosting the Islamists' power by giving them full control over the capital Mogadishu, militiamen said gunmen loyal to a warlord who controlled a former presidential palace were preparing to hand over the building.

Although the Islamist movement seized Mogadishu from warlords last month and now controls a swathe of the south, some pockets in the capital remained under warlord control.

The Islamists are split between moderates wanting talks and hardliners who believe they can win a military campaign against the interim administration.

"The plan is to go to the talks without a government in order to have a bargaining power with the Islamists," member of parliament Abdallah Ali said.

The government's interim charter says that once a vote of no confidence is passed against a prime minister, the president is required to appoint a new one within 30 days.

Talks took place in Sudan's capital Khartoum in June but the government boycotted a second round this month in protest at suspected Islamist violations of what had been agreed.

"The motion is supported and even funded by Islamists who want to take the position once talks with the government commence in Khartoum," a government source said.

Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said: "The motion is supported by individuals who want to be ministers and even get the premiership. I am sure if that happens, it will divide parliament.

The Islamists' rise has challenged the authority of Yusuf's government, set up in 2004 in the 14th attempt to restore central rule to Somalia since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre by warlords ushered in an era of anarchy.

The Islamists' most powerful leader, hardline cleric Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys who has ruled out any meeting unless Ethiopia stops its "invasion" of Somalia, refused to comment of the possibility of power-sharing.

The Islamists have said Ethiopian troops have poured into Somalia to protect Yusuf.

"We don't care who is removed and who remains in the government. Our only worry is Ethiopia and until they get out, we will not rest," Aweys said.

Islamist leaders met on Wednesday to decide whether to return to talks with the interim government.

"We met with the committee yesterday. We still need time to digest whatever they told us. We are ready for the talks but they are some constraints and until those constraints are over, it will be hard to go ahead," moderate Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said.

- REUTERS

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