Somali president set to sign deal in Yemen

Somalia's feuding president and parliament speaker are set to sign an agreement Thursday to convene their legislature for the first time inside their country, an official said. Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and Speaker Shariif Hassan Sheikh Aden were to sign the agreement in Yemen's coastal town of Aden, where they have been meeting with Yemeni mediators since Monday, said an official close to the talks, on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to give details of the agreement until it is signed.

The deal could still face opposition by key Somali warlords, but raises hopes for a country that has not had an effective government since clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Warlords then turned on each other, plunging the country of 7 million into chaos.

The agreement Yusuf and Aden will sign will commit them to convening Somalia's 275-member transitional parliament within a month in either the central Somali town of Baidoa or the southern coastal town of Kismayo, the official said. Somalia's parliament last met in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in May 2005. Most of its members are in various parts of Somalia.

A transitional government led by Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, formed in 2004 after lengthy peace talks in Kenya. Its members quickly split, disagreeing on whether Somalia needs peacekeepers from neighboring countries to help establish order, among other issues.

Yusuf and Gedi are based in the southern town of Jowhar, while Aden and some key warlords are based in the capital, Mogadishu. Yusuf has said that Mogadishu is unsafe and is working on forming a police force to help restore law and order in the country before he moves to Mogadishu, reports the AP. I.L.

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