Somali Prime Minister Gedi to resign

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BAIDOA, Somalia, Oct 29 (Reuters) Somalia's prime minister was to resign ton Monday after a long feud with the president that weakened the government while it faced an Islamist insurgency, officials and diplomats said.

''He is going to resign. It will be done in front of parliament,'' a minister, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

The split between Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf had frustrated international backers including Ethiopia, the United States and the United Nations.

They and others complain the rift has stalled real progress in the government, the 14th attempt at installing central rule in Somalia since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre's ouster sunk the Horn of Africa nation into anarchy in 1991.

Three foreign diplomats who follow Somalia also confirmed Gedi would quit.

And a second minister allied to him, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Maulid Maane Mahamud, told Reuters Gedi had handed in his resignation to Yusuf and parliament speaker Sheikh Adan Madobe when he arrived in Baidoa today.

''The president and the speaker of the parliament requested the prime minister to say it officially in front of the parliament.

He is due to arrive shortly,'' Mahamud told Reuters from parliament.

Gedi's spokesmen could not be immediately reached.

A veterinary surgeon by trade, Gedi rose from obscurity three years ago to become the prime minister at the end of Somalia's peace talks in Kenya.

CLAN TENSIONS Although he and Yusuf have both enjoyed Addis Ababa's support since they came to power in late 2004, the two have differed almost from the start.

Though they began to work together earlier this year, the rift widened again when they backed separate parties interested in exploiting Somalia's oil potential.

Yusuf's allies say the president, with some Western support, decided in September Gedi must go and set out to force him from office with a constitutional ploy that would have amounted to a no-confidence vote, if successful.

Gedi tried to garner support from his powerful Hawiye clan in Mogadishu, but he never got the unified backing he needed -- especially since many Hawiye have complained he was not their choice to take the clan's top position in government.

Yusuf hails from the rival Darod clan, and as such the prime minister had to come from the Hawiye clan as part of a power-sharing agreement reached at the peace talks in Kenya that gave birth to the government.

Distrust of Yusuf as a Darod and dissatisfaction with Gedi as prime minister has kept the Hawiye mostly against the government since its inception.

Those factors, diplomats and analysts say, made it difficult for the government to return to Hawiye-run Mogadishu until the Ethiopian military helped them over the New Year, only to be met by a Hawiye-backed Islamist insurgency.

Speculation has been rampant as to who might replace Gedi if he were to go, but diplomats and Somali officials say no clear candidate has emerged.

Many in the West hope parliament will first pass a law that will allow anyone, and not just sitting parliamentarians, to take the job in the hope of widening the field.

REUTERS SKB RK1536

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