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Faction leader joins interim government

One of the main Mogadishu-based faction leaders Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, of United Somali Congress (USC), pledged to join the interim government. Qanyare, who controls parts of south Mogadishu, signed an agreement with the Transitional National Government (TNG) on Friday, 16 February, Abdirahaman Dinari, the TNG director of information told IRIN.

The agreement will give the USC some as yet unspecified positions in the government, a source involved in the talks told IRIN. "Qanyare himself will most likely be given a cabinet post", the source added. Under the agreement brokered, Qanyare is required to give his full support to the TNG. Talks to bring Qanyare into the new government have been going on for some time, the source said.

The TNG denied that tens of thousands of dollars had been paid to persuade the faction leader to defect from the opposition, Agence France-Presse (AFP) said. "No money has been given or promised", Dinari told IRIN. A lunch was held on Sunday at the Shamo Hotel, south Mogadishu, to welcome Qanyare. It was attended by interim President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, Prime Minster Ali Khalif Galayr, and the speaker of parliament, Abdalla Deerow Isaq.

Former faction leaders Ali Mahdi Muhammad and Hussein Haji Bod also attended. Ali Mahdi joined peace talks hosted by Djibouti in August, and Bod threw his support behind the TNG in early December last year. Faction leaders Hussein Mohamed Aydid, Usman Ali Atto, and Muse Sudi Yalahow - all of whom control parts of south and southwest Mogadishu - remain opposed to the TNG.

The interim government has been under pressure to show progress in establishing talks with opposition faction leaders, diplomatic sources told IRIN.

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