Djibouti president keen on third term

DJIBOUTI - President Ismail Omar Guelleh signalled in an interview that he was prepared to run for a third six-year term if lawmakers amended the constitution in the small Horn of Africa nation.

DJIBOUTI - President Ismail Omar Guelleh signalled in an interview that he was prepared to run for a third six-year term if lawmakers amended the constitution in the small Horn of Africa nation.

The national assembly is expected to decide next week on an extension of presidential terms in office and speculation has surrounded his plans to run for a third mandate.

"This is a demand from our population and this will be next year. Let us wait for the outcome of the national commission that is working on the subject," Guelleh said in an interview on Saturday at the French colonial presidential palace on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Asked if he would accept the parliament's decision to approve a third term, he said: "If it's God's will."

Guelleh took office in 1999, and his second mandate expires in April next year.

Djibouti, a former French colony that separates Eritrea from Somalia, hosts France's largest military base in Africa and is a major US base. Its port is used by foreign navies patrolling busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia to fight piracy.

Guelleh said he believed the situation in Somalia was improving.

"I think the situation is better than before. There is some sort of fed-up (mood) among the people of Somalia, especially Mogadishu's citizens, who suffer from this opposition. I think that (President) Sheikh Sharif (Ahmed) will prevail," he said.

Since 2007 fighting between pro-government militia and the Islamist al Shabaab group - which Washington sees as al Qaeda's proxy in the region - has killed more than 21000 Somalis and driven 1,5million from their homes.

Ahmed joined a Western-backed peace process and was voted president of Somalia in January 2009 in an election that took place in Djibouti.

Guelleh said he was not planning to send more troops to Somalia on top of the 450 Djibouti has pledged to boost a 5000-strong African Union force there. Relations between Djibouti and neighbouring Eritrea, under President Isaias Afwerki, remain hostile.

The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea in December, accusing it of destabilising the region by providing funds and arms to Islamist insurgents in Somalia. Eritrea has however denied the allegations.

"We are in the process of implementation of the resolution we hope will make this guy more flexible to the international community," Guelleh said, referring to Isaias. "He must abide by international law." - Reuters

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