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Somalia leaders vow new elections

Leaders in Somalia have signed a deal to hold elections within a year, aiming to end a string of ineffective transitional UN-backed administrations.

The deal commits the government to a new constitution, stipulates reforms in governance and security services and calls for talks with armed opposition groups.

It also says African Union troops supporting the government should spread beyond the capital of Mogadishu.

That is all the territory the transitional administration currently holds.

Most of the rest of southern Somalia is held by Islamist insurgents, although allied militias hold a few other areas in southern Somalia.

The plan says the international community will provide financial support based on the achievement of results.

The government currently gets little direct support from Western donors, who worry about corruption. But over the past two years it has received tens of millions of dollars in cash, mainly from Arab states. Most of that is unaccounted for.

The plan is an "important measure" that sets out timelines and benchmarks, said Augustine Mahiga, the top United Nations official working on Somalia.

"The Somali people are expecting us to achieve full security so that they can have a good life. We will sustain and honour their dignity, and will lead them to prosperity," said Somali president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

A long-running feud between the president and the speaker of parliament is one reason the government has remained weak and divided.

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