The United States has recognised Somalia's government for the first time in more than two decades.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US secretary of state, made the announcement on Thursday alongside Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

President Barack Obama was reported by the AP news agency as having met privately with the Somali leader at the White House.

Washington had not recognised a Somali government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

American intervention failed two years later after militants shot down two US helicopters and killed 18 American
servicemen.

Clinton said times have changed, citing the armed group al-Shabab's retreat from every major Somali city. The US provided $780m to African forces to help that effort.

The White House also expressed optimism about Somalia's future and pledged to work with the country's new government to promote peace and security, improve the economy and boost social services.

Obama also urged his Somali counterpart to "seize this unique opportunity to turn the page on two decades of civil strife", according to a White House statement.

Recognition will help Somalia receive greater assistance from US and international aid agencies. Clinton also spoke about re-establishing an embassy in Somalia in the future.

Source: Agencies