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Africa
Somalia to issue new passport
Parliament speaker who tried to negotiate with Islamic courts leaders is dismissed.
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2007 16:04 GMT
The transitional government is trying to establish its authority in the capital, Mogadishu [AFP]

Somalia's interim government is set to issue new passports in its headquarters in Baidoa for the first time since the civil war erupted in 1991.
 
Legislators also voted out on Wednesday the influential speaker of the Somali parliament who had tried to negotiate with the Council of Islamic Courts group.
The transitional government says its decision on passports is a response to the forging and selling of existing Somali passports, both inside and outside the country.
 
Abdullah Mahmud Javo, the immigration chief, said: "The Somali passport was easily available to non-Somalis.
"Drug dealers had forged passports. We now announce that old passports will be cancelled starting July 2007."
 
Border controls
 
The decision also aims to prevent the entry of foreigners or people the government calls "terrorists", Al Jazeera reported.
 
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At the same time, the Somali foreign ministry has ordered its embassies around the world to grant travel visas to citizens or visitors wishing to enter Somalia.
 
"Of course we have to know why a foreigner would come to our country. We do not want Somalia to be open for people to come without the government's knowledge," Hussain Jamea, the Somali deputy foreign minister, said.
 
The Somali government has set July 2007 as the deadline for renewal of old passports. Applicants will have to hand over their old passport to obtain a new one.
 
The government said that old passports will automatically be cancelled. It is hoped that this new measure will reduce the obstacles faced by the Somali people travelling in the past.
 
Many countries had stopped recognising the Somali passport, which had forced many citizens to acquire new nationalities.
 
Speaker's dismissal
 
Wednesday's vote to dismiss the speaker, who is currently out of the country, garnered a total of 183 MPs gathered at the transitional government's base of Baidoa. Nine voted against the move.
 

"We do not want Somalia to be open for people to come without the government's knowledge"

Hussain Jamea,  Somali deputy foreign minister

Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden angered many in November when he launched unauthorised negotiations with the Islamic courts, who were then ruling large parts of the country, including the capital, Mogadishu.
 
Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mogadishu, said that the move to dismiss Sheikh Aden is all part of the government trying to deal with internal conflict.

"Sheikh Aden has always been seen as a renegade and someone who is opposed to the president and prime minister and, therefore, the issue of the parliament voting him out is seen as the government dealing with the conflict within itself," Adow said.

Since their removal late last month, the government has been trying to stamp its authority and end the factional fighting which has dogged Somalia for the past 16 years.
 
Adow also said that it did not seem likely that voting Sheikh Aden out would lead to violence in the capital, even though Sheikh Aden has support in some quarters of Mogadishu.

"The government continues to exert its authority all over Somalia and the capital," Adow said.
Somali watchers however have warned that the dismissal of Aden, a member of the Rahawein clan, could undermine stabilisation efforts and polarise the government and parliament, whose formation is based on a complex power-sharing alliance among fractious clans.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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