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New Somali President Arrives in Cairo

Somali President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan arrived in Cairo on Saturday for his first official visit since his election last week, sources said. Abdiqassim Salad was to address the opening of an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday, Arab League officials said earlier.

Somalia has been without a central government since 1991, when former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted and the African country dissolved into civil war and anarchy, with clan-based factions carving out rival fiefdoms. Abdiqassim Salad was also expected to have talks with Egyptian officials.

Both Egypt and the Arab League have issued statements of support for the new president, who served in Siad Barre's government.

In comments published in Egypt's daily newspaper al-Ahram on Saturday, Abdiqassim Salad said he did not recognise Somalia's breakaway provinces of Puntland and Somaliland, but said he would use dialogue to try to unite the country. Somalia's two northernmost provinces, Puntland and the former British protectorate of Somaliland, have enjoyed relative stability in the past nine years.

They opposed the peace process sponsored by Djibouti that led to Abdiqassim Salad's election. "We support dialogue and the people have chosen dialogue," Abdiqassim Salad was quoted as saying.

"I have sworn the oath to do what I can to maintain unity and this is my position." A demonstration against the president on Thursday in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa contrasted with celebrations in the Somali capital Mogadishu when he returned on Wednesday from Djibouti where he was elected by Somalia's parliament-in-exile.

In Sanaa, prominent Somali warlords said after talks with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Friday they might resort to violence if reconciliation efforts with Abdiqassim Salad fail.


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