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Somali Opposition Dismiss Nomination Of New PM
By Jack Kimball
ASMARA, Nov 23, 2007 – Somali dissidents rejected President Abdullahi Yusuf's nomination of a former attorney general as premier, saying the move would do little to end an insurgency against government troops and their Ethiopian allies.
Yusuf nominated Nur Hassan Hussein on Thursday three weeks after his predecessor quit under pressure over a lack of progress in building a transitional government -- the 14th attempt at restoring central rule since the 1991.
Now a senior Red Crescent officer, Hussein is largely seen as a politically neutral figure, but a spokesman for an opposition group uniting former lawmakers and Islamists was skeptical about Hussein's ability to make a difference.
"The issue is not changing one person for another. The (issue) is about a new strategy for the withdrawal of the Ethiopian occupation forces from all of Somalia," said Ahmed Abdallah of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS).
"There is no policy change. Still (Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles) Zenawi is instructing his followers in Somalia," he told Reuters in an interview in the Eritrean capital Asmara.
If the nomination is endorsed by parliament, Hussein faces a tough challenge as the prime minister of a country facing what the United Nations says is Africa's worst humanitarian crisis.
Thousands have been killed in fighting this year between gunmen loyal to ousted Islamist leaders and allied Somali- Ethiopian soldiers. One million Somalis have fled their homes.
U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday it was concerned about the welfare of at least 26 Somalis detained at Nairobi's main airport and wanted access to the mainly women and children.
They were among 49 Somalis returned to Kenya after flying via Nairobi to Uganda from Mogadishu. Of that group, 23 were forcibly flown back to Somalia on Tuesday without being given the chance to seek asylum, UNHCR said.
"We have received reliable information that all of the Somalis of the group expressed fear of persecution were they to be returned to Somalia," UNHCR said in a statement.
"We are now extremely concerned that the remaining group ... will be returned to the Mogadishu area, where continuing unrest and fighting would put them at extreme risk."
Kenya has denied deporting Somalis back to Mogadishu.
"They were denied entry into Uganda and thus had to be taken back to their country of origin. Kenya was only a transit point," read a statement on the government spokesman's Web site. (Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri in Nairobi; Writing by Katie Nguyen; Editing by Giles Elgood)