Amid growing international pressure, Somalia's president resigns

Widely considered an obstacle to peace, Abdullahi Yusuf announced his resignation on Monday.

The president of Somalia resigned Monday, in a move that analysts say could help bring stability to the war-ravaged, failed state.

Abdullahi Yusuf, a former warlord, took office amid high hopes in 2004 as the first president of a United Nations-backed transitional government. But during his term he was unable to extend the government's writ much farther than the capital.

Somalia has been without a strong central government since former dictator President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, and the area near the capital of Mogadishu has seen fierce fighting between US-backed Ethiopian and Somali government troops, and Islamist fighters.

Mr. Yusuf's weakness was further highlighted this year by the shocking surge in pirate attacks off the Somali coast, which has stirred international outrage.

Reuters reported that Yusuf's departure could help break a "deadlock" at the top of Somalia's government.

Reuters cited analysts as saying Yusuf's departure, combined with the scheduled withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, could help stabilize the country. Yusuf had clashed with his prime minister on several issues, including whether to include moderate Islamists in peace talks (Yusuf opposed doing so).

According to Bloomberg, Yusuf made the announcement of his resignation to the Somali parliament.

Garowe Online, the sister site of Radio Garowe, a community radio station based in northern Somalia, reported that security was "extra tight" in Baidoa. It said the president's resignation was no surprise.

The power struggle between the two men peaked a couple weeks ago, when the president fired his prime minister, according to a Xinhua report.

Agence France-Presse described the next steps for replacing Yusuf.

Somalia has been a failed state since 1991, when Mr. Barre was ousted. Warlords carved up the country, but Islamists seized control of southern and central Somalia, and took the capital in 2006. A US-backed Ethiopian offensive drove them out of Mogadishu in late 2006 and Yusuf arrived in the capital several days later.

The government controls only a "few city blocks in a country almost as big as Texas," according to The New York Times. But the Times reported that fighting has now broken out between rival Islamist militias, further complicating the picture.

The US says some Shabab leaders have ties to Al Qaeda, and fears Somalia could become a haven for foreign jihadis, notes the USA Today.

In a background report on Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which Yusuf headed, the Council on Foreign Relations noted that despite widespread instability, elections are due in Somalia next year.

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