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New Somali president wants militias disarmed, retrained

Somalia's new President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan said a main priority of his future government would be to disarm militias and offer their members vocational training.

"We will not kill the boys (militiamen), but give them vocational training in exchange for weapons to achieve peace," said Salat, in a his first address to Somalia's parliament based in Arta, in neighboring Djibouti.

The transitional parliament was formed in Arta after reconciliation talks sponsored by Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh. Somali delegates attending the talks were mostly drawn from the diaspora and civil society.

Somalia has lacked a central government since the 1991 overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre. Since then, the lawless nation has been ruled by rival warlords who have rejected the newly-formed parliament, the president, and have vowed to fight against the imposition of a future government.

Salat, who was sworn in on Sunday, pledged loyalty to the Somali nation, describing himself as the president of all Somalis, including those who did not approve his nomination. The new president also said his government would go to New York to claim a seat at the United Nations.

Salat said his administration already had the support of the United Nations, the European Union, along with French and Italian governments. "It would, however, be awful to go overseas without visiting Somalia even for two single days," Salat said.

Salat's speech coincided with an Islamic court warning in south Mogadishu that it would use force against opponents of the new government.

Salat, whose government is expected to rely on support from Islamic courts active in the south, pledged: "My government is the government for the poor, women and the weak. I would give equal justice to all Somalis." Raising the question of relations with the Arab world, Salat said he would be attending the next Arab League meeting.

"I would go to the Arab League with the founding father of Somalia, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh," he said.

Somalia's reconciliation talks, which started on May 2, was initiated and hosted by Guelleh, but its outcome has been rejected by major warlords who hold sway in Mogadishu, and by the breakaway Republic of Somaliland in the northwest and the regional state of Puntland in the northeast. Salat, 58, is a former deputy prime minster and interior minster in the Siad Barre regime.

 


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