Somalia President Promises 'Peace and Dignity'

Congratulating Sheikh Sharif on his appointment, the U.S. government commended him on working "diligently on reconciliation efforts in Somalia." In a press statement, the Obama administration said it looked "forward to cooperating with President Sharif and his broad-based government on these efforts to establish democracy and achieve peace in Somalia."

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and the country lacks any real infrastructure or criminal justice system. Nearly 1 million people have been displaced and about 16,000 civilians have been killed in the last three years.

There are estimates that more than 3 million people are on the verge of starvation and the unsafe security conditions make it nearly impossible for aid organizations to operate. The United Nations has called the country "the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa."

The daunting task of pulling Somalia together is not lost on the new president.

"The surest way to get stability in Somalia is to resolve the differences through negotiation," he said, hoping that among the various warring factions in the country there is "common ground ... a widespread feeling for peace and stability, hunger for reconciliation."

Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab Threat

His biggest threat comes from the Islamist group Al Shabaab, which launched an intense insurgency after the Ethiopian invasion three years ago. The group's leadership has sworn allegiance to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and is now in control of most of Southern Somalia.

Initially, Al Shabaab declared war on Sheikh Sharif's government-in-waiting. But meetings were held in Mogadishu during the weekend to start negotiating an agreement, according to the new president and a spokesman for Al Shabaab.

"I went back to Somalia… to consult with them and to woo those who have, until now, been against peace to come into the fold," the president said. "I haven't directly met with Shabaab, but I have sent some people, emissaries, to talk to them, to stop the bloodshed and to put down their arms."

Abu Massor, who refers to himself as the spokesman for Al Shabaab, told ABC News through a translator that nearly all the leadership has agreed to accept the new president if he meets the group's conditions. The three most important of those conditions are that the country be ruled under traditional Shariah; that foreign forces, including the African Union and the U.N. peacekeeping troops, not be allowed on Somali soil; and that Al Shabaab members have significant roles in the new government.

"If he recognizes our presence on the ground, and he is going to accept Shariah law to be applied in the country, we are going to accept him," Massor said.

The president has not said whether he will meet Al Shabaab's demands, which could complicate his desire for better relations with the United States.

But forming a government that includes individuals who refuse to renounce their allegiance to al Qaeda and other extremist groups will not be acceptable to either Ethiopia or the United States. Al Shabaab is likely facing its own demands from Sheikh Sharif, who is walking a fine line between forming a government acceptable to Somali people of all clans and to the international community.

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