Saudi Arabia invites Somali leaders for mediation

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BAIDOA, Somalia, Oct 24 (Reuters) Saudi Arabia has invited Somalia's top leaders to the kingdom for mediation talks on how to heal that country's government rift, a spokesman to the Saudi prime minister said today.

The invitation to Somalia's president, prime minister and parliament speaker comes ahead of a debate among the country's lawmakers over when Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi's 30-month mandate should expire.

The debate is the latest row between Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf, who have rarely worked in tandem and have often been blamed for wrangles that many say are hindering their interim government from achieving its goals.

''The president, the prime minister, the speaker, will meet in Saudi Arabia,'' the spokesman said.

He said Gedi was expected to travel there later today from Addis Ababa where he is meeting African Union and Ethiopian officials and diplomats. It was not immediately clear if Yusuf or Speaker Sheikh Adan Madobe had agreed to go.

Saudi Arabia gave Gedi a sizable sum of money earlier this year to help him resolve the government disputes.

Gedi and Yusuf, both of whom came to power with Ethiopian support in late 2004 at peace talks in Kenya, have feuded almost from the start over issues like how to divide donor contributions.

Their rift widened earlier this year as the two men backed different concerns interested in exploiting Somalia's potential oil resources.

Reuterss SG GC1442

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