It was the first meeting since December for the Somali parliament, many members of which live outside the country because of security fears.

MPs had been scheduled to hold a vote of confidence in the government and a "no" vote could have forced the government to resign.

Sharif Ahmed, the president, has so far failed to deliver on the hope he would be able to unite some of the country's warring factions and establish a greater degree of central power following his election in January 2009.

The Transitional Federal Government controls just a small portion of the capital, while al-Shabab and allied armed groups control much of the rest of the city, as well as large areas of south and central Somalia.

Government forces have repeatedly said that they are planning an offensive against al-Shabab and the other groups in Mogadishu, but they are still to make an significant move against them.