New premier for Somalia

BAIDOA, Somalia - Somalia's president yesterday nominated Somali Red Crescent officer Nur Hassan Hussein as prime minister, hoping to shake off political paralysis hampering the government as it battles insurgents.

BAIDOA, Somalia - Somalia's president yesterday nominated Somali Red Crescent officer Nur Hassan Hussein as prime minister, hoping to shake off political paralysis hampering the government as it battles insurgents.

The nomination of Hussein, seen by many Somalis as a neutral figure with government experience, comes three weeks after his predecessor quit under pressure over the lack of progress in building a transitional government.

"I issued a decree to nominate Nur Hassan Hussein 'Nur Adde' as the new premier," President Abdullahi Yusuf said in Baidoa, the south-central trading town where the Somali parliament sits.

Yusuf urged Hussein - a trained lawyer in his 70s - to form a cabinet quickly and asked parliament to approve the nomination. By law, the vote should take place within 24 hours.

"I pledge to do my utmost to perform the difficult obligations in front of me, by respecting the Somali federal charter," Hussein said after his nomination.

He will become the second prime minister in the interim government, the 14th attempt at establishing an effective national authority since 1991.

Hussein's nomination comes as one million Somalis have fled their homes and thousands have been killed in fighting between Islamist insurgents and allied Somali-Ethiopian government troops in Mogadishu.

The war and ensuing human crisis - said by the UN to be worse now than in Sudan's Darfur - have sunk efforts to produce political harmony, which has eluded the government since it was formed at talks in Kenya in late 2004.

Hussein arrived in Baidoa on Tuesday, and a day later was issued with an essential Somali political accessory - a retinue of heavily armed militiamen for security.

On October 29, the president won a long-standing feud with former prime minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, forcing the latter to step down with a no-confidence vote looming.

That, and a change allowing non-legislators to serve as ministers, cleared the way for a prime minister and cabinet with practical experience. - Reuters

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