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Exiled Somali government names first foreign ambassadors


NAIROBI, June 10 (AFP) - Somalia's government-in-exile has named its first foreign envoys in a bid to put the war-shattered country back on the international diplomatic scene after a 14-year absence, officials said Friday.

The transitional Somali cabinet, sitting in the Kenyan capital on Thursday, appointed ambassadors to the United Nations and China and announced plans to name other diplomats soon, they said.

"This is part of a government plan to have its own ambassadors across the world who will assist in putting Somalia back on the map," a spokesman for transitional Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed told AFP.

"These two are the first lot, others will be named in the future," said the spokesman, Yusuf Ismail Bari Bari.

Since the 1991 overthrow of the regime of strongman Mohammed Siad Barre, the Horn of Africa nation of about 10 million has been in chaos without any functioning central authority and has had only limited representation abroad.

Elmi Ahmed Duale, a physician and World Health Organisation official, was named as the government's permanent representative to the United Nations, he said.

Mohamed Awil, a Somali exile close to Yusuf and a political newcomer, was appointed ambassador to Beijing, Bari Bari said.

In addition to the appointment of the new envoys, he said the cabinet had also approved a 279.5-million-dollar (229-million-euro) budget although it has no means of raising revenue and is entirely dependent on foreign aid.

Observers said the budget was less a spending plan than a request for international assistance to help the government relocate from exile in Nairobi and establish itself in Somalia.

Yusuf, who was elected late 2004, is trying to give his government legitimacy amid a power struggle with warlords who control Mogadishu over the relocation of the government. The president and Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi have backed a plan that would see the administration first move to the towns of Baidoa and Jowhar and stay away from anarchic Mogadishu for security reasons.

But warlords in the capital are demanding that the government move there.

The Kenyan government is set to host a farewell party for Yusuf's government on June 13, but it is not yet clear exactly when and where it will relocate.

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