June 28, 2011 / 11:50 AM / 7 years ago

Somalia parliament approves new prime minister

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali legislators have approved the appointment of Adiweli Mohamed Ali as prime minister, their speaker said on Tuesday, and the new government’s main goal will be quashing an Islamist insurgency.

Ali was named to the post last Thursday by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. Like his predecessor, Ali comes from the Somali diaspora and was a professor of economics in the United States.

He was sworn in after a 337-2 vote with two absentions.

Somalia has been mired in violence and awash with weapons since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991, and the weak Western-backed government controls only parts of the capital.

Western security agencies warn that the anarchic Horn of Africa nation is a fertile breeding ground for Islamist militants, while the chaos on land has allowed piracy to flourish off its shores.

“The objective of my government will be fighting terrorists and pirates, strenghthening the relationship between the government institutions and our relationship with the international community,” Ali told parliament.

“I will fight corruption and straighten economic management, good governance and national reconciliation.”

Following his swearing-in, Ali said he would push for the completion of a draft constitution.

“In the short time remaining to us we need to handle many tasks, so we have to redouble our efforts to restore security, completing the draft constitution and passing the transitional period,” he said in a statement.

President Ahmed’s administration is propped up by African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, but al Shabaab rebels, who claim links with al Qaeda, control large areas of the capital Mogadishu and much of south and central Somalia.

“The new PM has been approved by the parliament and is expected to appoint his cabinet ministers as soon as possible,” parliament speaker Sherif Hassan Sheikh Aden told reporters.

Former Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was forced out by a deal struck earlier this month in Kampala between the president and speaker of parliament that extended the beleaguered administration’s mandate by 12 months.

The Kampala agreement ended persistent wrangling between Ahmed and Aden that had angered international donors, who are keen to see an acceleration in the pace of political reform and military gains against the al Shabaab.

Somalia’s latest administration had been due to dissolve in August with Ahmed — a former Islamist rebel leader, and Aden — who covets the top job, at loggerheads over what should happen then.

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