__________________________________ 1 – VOA NEWS
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Visits Somalia to Mediate Political Crisis
By VOA News
05 August 2006
Ethiopia’s foreign minister is visiting Somalia to mediate a dispute within Somalia’s transitional government.
Somali spokesman Abdirahman Dinari says Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin Saturday met with Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf in the southern town of Baidoa, where the government is based.
Seyoum is trying to mend a growing rift within the largely-powerless government. Since last week, 40 officials have quit, including more than one-third of the cabinet.
Most of the former officials blame the crisis on Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi. They say he has been reluctant to pursue peace talks with Islamic militias.
Late Friday, Mr. Gedi nominated seven new ministers to fill vacated posts. The president must approve the appointments.
Mr. Gedi has vowed to stay in power despite the mass defections from the government.
Baidoa is the only southern town that Mr. Gedi’s government controls. Somalia’s Islamic courts have extended their influence over most of the south since they took control of the capital, Mogadishu, in June.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
______________________________ 2 – Reuters
BAIDOA (Reuters) – An Ethiopian delegation arrived in Somalia on Saturday to meet with top officials and help resolve a political crisis threatening the fragile interim administration, a government spokesman said.
"An Ethiopian delegation led by Foreign Affairs Minister Seyoum Mesfin arrived this morning in Baidoa and held a closed-door meeting with President Abdullahi Yusuf," Somalia government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari told Reuters.
"They came to settle the differences between the top officials of Somalia’s government."
Politicians say the government is split between Yusuf and parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi who asked for proposed talks with rival Islamists to be postponed.
In the past week, 40 senior officials have deserted the government, many of them citing Gedi’s reluctance to reach out to the Islamists who control a large swathe of south Somalia.
Source: Reuters, Aug 5, 2006
_________________________________________ 3 – SA
Baidoa – Two Ethiopian ministers held talks with Somalia’s interim president and prime minister on Saturday, in a bid to solve a political row threatening the unity of the 18-month transitional government.
Ethiopian foreign affairs minister Seyum Mesfin and culture minister Mohamed Dirir held separate consultations with prime minister Ali Mohamed Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who have disagreed on whether to hold talks with the powerful Islamic courts in Somalia.
"The two ministers are here to try and stabilise the situation and reconcile the president and the prime minister," said government spokesperson Abdirahman Mohamed Dinari.
Yusuf and parliament speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, have shown interest in negotiating with the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), but Gedi has been hesitant.
Officials said the fall out occurred when Yusuf and Aden insisted on sending delegates to the Arab League-mediated talks with the courts in Sudan, despite Gedi’s call for a postponement of the second round talks.
At least 38 ministers have quit the 102-member cabinet in the past week, protesting against Gedi’s policies, notably the deployment of Ethiopian troops to protect his government and his reluctance to engage in peace talks with the courts.
Gedi replaced seven ministers in efforts to reconstruct his government on Friday.
The transitional government is based in the provincial town of Baidoa, about 250km northwest of the capital Mogadishu.
The Islamic courts control Mogadishu and much of the country. They have refused to old peace talks with the government until Ethiopian troops are withdrawn.
The transitional government was appointed in Kenya in 2004, after more than two years of peace talks.