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Somalia Leader Seeks Arab Assistance

Stating he faces ``great challenges,'' Somalia's newly elected president Abdiqasim Salad Hassan called on Arab nations Sunday to help him rebuild his war-ravaged country.

``Somalia today, more than ever, needs the aid of its brothers in these fateful and tough circumstances,'' Hassan told the biannual meeting of Arab League foreign ministers.

Hassan was inaugurated Aug. 27 as Somalia's first president since 1991. He was chosen by Somalia's Parliament-in-exile in neighboring Djibouti, host of an ongoing peace process. Hassan said he faces an uphill battle as he begins work on establishing peace and security and rebuilding the country's ``collapsed'' infrastructure.

``The tragedy is great and destruction is total,'' said Hassan. ``The tasks are difficult. Ahead of me and the Parliament are great challenges.'' Hassan said that instability in Somalia, one of the Arab League's 22 members, could threaten its neighbors.

Somalia descended into chaos and has had no central government since opposition leaders joined forces to oust dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Factional leaders then fought with each other, turning the nation of 7 million into battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias.

Peace talks began on May 2, bringing together Somali civic and military leaders at the invitation of Djibouti. Several key faction leaders in Somalia oppose the process.

The country's new parliament sits in the small town of Arta in Djibouti. A prime minister and Cabinet have not been named yet.

 


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