By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) -The United Nations and other countries are in talks with Somalia’s prime minister and president to urge them to reduce tensions in their political feud that has fed fears of a military clash, officials said on Wednesday.
A Somalia government official said Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble had separately talked with Molly Phee, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, on the political situation in Somalia, which is also seen by analysts as distracting the government from fighting an Islamist insurgency by the al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab group.
Phee’s office said on Twitter late on Wednesday she had also spoken with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, urging him to support Roble to complete parliamentary elections quickly. The elections began on Nov. 1 and were supposed to be finished by Dec. 24, but by Wednesday only 30 of the 275 representatives have been elected, according to the election commission.
“The United Nations and international partners are in contact with all sides to urge de-escalation,” said Ari Gaitanis, spokesperson for the U.N. Somalia office.
The talks involved the global body’s partners in Somalia who include the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and others, Gaitanis said.
On Wednesday the group met separately with the president and a group of candidates who are aiming to run against him in a presidential election.
“Their goal at both meetings was to encourage Somalia’s leaders to put the country’s interests first and to focus on correcting electoral deficiencies,” Gaitanis said.
Roble spoke with Phee about “the political situation in Somalia, security and elections,” Somalia federal government spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu said on Twitter.
The president on Monday suspended the prime minister for suspected corruption, a move Roble said was a coup attempt and asked all security forces to take orders from his office.
For a second day on Wednesday, security forces belonging to politicians allied to the prime minister camped in an area near the presidential palace..
Mogadishu residents told Reuters although the capital was calm they had noticed a bigger-than-usual presence of security forces belonging to Roble’s political allies, but that they had largely kept away from the streets.
(Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Writing by Elias BiryabaremaEditing by George Obulutsa and Grant McCool)