- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

BAIDOA, Somalia (AP) — Somalian leaders struggled to regroup yesterday after a week in which 29 ministers quit the government, with the defectors urging the virtually powerless administration to reconcile with Islamic militants who have seized the capital.

Eleven ministers stepped down Tuesday and yesterday, adding to the 18 who resigned late last week.

For the time being, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi’s government is secure because he has the support of more than half the 42 remaining ministers. Of those who resigned, 11 were full ministers; the rest were deputy ministers.

Yet his weak government — isolated by the success of the hard-line Supreme Islamic Courts Council — has been further incapacitated by the resignations. In previous months, five other ministers quit or were fired for reasons unrelated to the current crisis.

“The prime minister has failed to talk to the Islamic Union,” said Hasaan Abshir Farah, who quit late Tuesday.

The Islamist group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, said in a radio broadcast that the former ministers were welcome in his group.

Others also urged the government to at least form contacts with the Islamic group, whose militia seized most of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu. The transitional government installed by the United Nations is in Baidoa, one of the only places in the south not under Islamist control.

In Mogadishu, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Eric Larouche, told reporters that the Somalian capital’s security had improved, but that “there can be no full security unless there is dialogue between all sides in Mogadishu.”

Mr. Larouche spoke after he and nine other U.N. officials met with top officials of the Islamist group. He said the United Nations wanted to help people displaced by months of fighting in Mogadishu, including providing tents for children to study under when school starts in September.

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