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Puntland leader to use Islamic law
Gen. Addeh Museh announced the decision amid fears that the Council of Islamic Courts will try to seize Puntland in northeastern Somalia. The council has been steadily gaining territory since taking over the capital, Mogadishu, in June.
"I set up a committee of scholars and traditional leaders to implement sharia law," Museh said in a presidential decree. Puntland usually enforces a secular penal code, even though the region's charter says it's based on sharia law.
Puntland declared itself an autonomous state within Somalia in 1998, and has generally been spared the violence that has wracked much of the rest of the country.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other. A government was formed with the help of the U.N. two years ago, but it has failed to assert any real control outside the southern town of Baidoa, where it is based.
The Islamic movement, meanwhile, has taken over the capital and much of southern Somalia since June. The United States has accused the group of sheltering suspects in the 1998 al-Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Osama bin Laden has said Somalia is a battleground in his war on the West.
On Monday, the United Nations' envoy to Somalia urged the country's fractured government to make amends and commit to faltering peace talks with the Islamic militia.
Francois Lonseny Fall, the U.N. secretary general's special representative to Somalia, met briefly with Somali President Abdillahi Yusuf before holding closed-door discussions with Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi.
"We strongly urge the transitional federal institutions to remain committed to dialogue. The international community is very, very concerned," Fall told Yusuf during his first visit to Somalia since August.
Fall said his focus was to persuade the government, which has been wracked by infighting, to come together and restart talks with the Union of Islamic Courts. Somalia's most powerful lawmaker, Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, traveled to the capital, Mogadishu, earlier this month and brokered his own preliminary peace agreement with the courts, but the move was not authorized by the government.
On Monday, Gedi said he had invited Aden back to the government base of Baidoa, but Aden scoffed.
"I haven't said in the first place I had left Baidoa for good. I have come to Mogadishu to seek reconciliation and whether I get it or not I will return to Baidoa and inform parliamentarians about the result," he said, adding: "I don't take permission from Gedi."
Several peace initiatives in the country have failed, with both the government and Islamic movement trading accusations over who is to blame for the deadlock. Fears are mounting that a war in Somalia could engulf the region.
Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS