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Puntland leader reiterates rejection of new Somali president

The head of the self-styled autonomous Somali state of Puntland on Friday ruled out any prospect of talks with his old foe Abdulkassim Salat Hassan in his capacity as Somalia's first president in years.

"I will not talk to Salat as a president of Somalia but maybe as a clan leader from Hawiye political factions."

Abdullahi Yousuf Ahmed told AFP here, again rejecting Salat's portfolio as "non-existent." In 1978, Ahmed, now 67, founded the rebel Somali Salvation Democratic Front to fight the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre, the president ousted in 1991 and under whom Salat served as deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Salat's election last month by members of a newly formed transitional parliament, meeting in neighbouring Djibouti, delivered Somalia its first president since 1991.

The intervening years saw infrastructure crumble in Somalia and Salat has stressed his priority is to create a government and reintegrate Puntland and Somaliland, which declared itself independent in 1991.

Illustrating the importance of clans, or bloodlines, in Somalia, Ahmed suggested Salat should "first establish a regional government for his clansmen before pointing his hostile fingers in the most stable parts of Somalia, such as Puntland and neighbouring Somaliland."

"I advise Salat to establish Hawiyeland in the Mogadishu area," Ahmed said. Salat is of the Hawiye clan, while Ahmed, like most of Puntland's population, is of the Darod clan and one of its most powerful members.

Reacting to remarks made by Salat's associates that Ahmed might be offered the placatory post of prime minister of Somalia, the puntland leader balked. "I will not accept any political compromise with Salat on such basis.

He is not a president so how he can appoint a prime minister?" Ahmed described the new parliament, the fruit of a Djibouti-led reconciliation conference, as a "fundamentalist-infested organ that can destabilise the security of greater east Africa."

"183 of the 245 members of the parliament are religious extremists. Salat himself is an Islamic fundamentalist who vowed to destroy Puntland and Somaliland," Ahmed said.

He dismissed rumours that he had been importing weapons in violation of a UN embargo, but admitted sending more security people to towns in Puntland.

"There is no need for us to import weapons as Puntland has enough military stock to defend our territory.

However it is our responsibility to strengthen security to ensure our people's safety from the Djibouti government's misguided elements," Ahmed said.

Ahmed said he would accept negotiation with all Somali factions if the "Djibouti-manipulated parliament, transitional charter and Salat are scrapped." Since arriving in Nairobi last week, Ahmed has met prominent Somali warlords, such as Hussein Mohammed Aidid and Osman Hassan Ali "Atto", who have also expressed their fierce opposition to all that came out of the Djibouti process.


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