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UN Calls for Somali Vote Before Government Term Ends in August

April 14 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations called on Somalia’s transitional government to hold presidential elections before its term was scheduled to expire in August. The government extended its mandate by a year last month.

There is a “need to end the transition” as previously agreed, Augustine Mahiga, the UN’s special representative for Somalia, said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday in neighboring Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

He made the comments at the end of a closed, two-day meeting in Nairobi to discuss the Horn of Africa nation. Somalia’s government, led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, refused to attend, saying the meeting should have taken place in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Participants included the Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament, the president of Puntland, a semi-autonomous northern region of Somalia, members of the government-allied Ahlu Sunnah Waljamaah group, the European Union and the African Union, Mahiga said.

The conference agreed on the proposal to have elections in Somalia within four months, he said, without giving details on how to organize a poll in the conflict-torn nation.

A follow-up discussion will be held in Somalia this month or next, Mahiga said on April 11.

Islamic Insurgents

Last month, Somalia’s interim government extended its mandate until August 2012, arguing it was justified in light of recent gains in the fight against Islamic insurgents, Agence France-Presse news agency reported on April 1, citing Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. The transitional administration needs extra time to rid the country of militants and prepare a stable government, he said, according to AFP.

South and central Somalia are under siege by al Qaeda-linked insurgents, while the government, backed by about 9,000 African Union peacekeeping forces, has control over swathes of Mogadishu. The government is touting recent advances after capturing several key positions in Mogadishu and “liberating” seven towns near the Kenyan border since February.

Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre 20 years ago.

The conference pledged to “redouble” efforts to boost security and provide aid in previously conflict-ridden parts of Somalia, Mahiga said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Johnstone Ole Turana in Nairobi at jturana@bloomberg.net; Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at  smcgregor5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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