MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia's president will resign today to try to end government infighting before the country's Ethiopian allies leave, a senior ally said yesterday in the latest in a series of conflicting statements on the leader's future.
President Abdullahi Yusuf will address a special session of the country's parliament to announce his retirement from politics, said Abdirashid Sed, a confidant of Yusuf and the most senior figure to comment so far on the president's plans.
"He decided to step down because he does not want to be seen as an obstacle to peace in Somalia," Sed said. "He wants to give a chance to the younger generation."
The announcement came as 19 people died in clashes in the nation that has been ravaged by 18 years of civil war.
The president's position has been in doubt since parliament last week blocked his attempt to fire Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.
The political infighting has crippled the Somalian government, which came to power two years ago after Ethiopian troops attacked an Islamic administration that had ruled much of the south and the capital for six months.
Islamist insurgents have hit back and now hold most of southern and central Somalia. Yusuf's administration only controls a few pockets of territory in the capital and one other town.
The Ethiopian allies are due to pull out within days and the government will be forced to rely on its own unpaid and ill-disciplined fighters to tackle the insurgency.
Hussein, a former humanitarian worker with broad international support, has welcomed talks with factions fighting in the civil war. He backed a peace deal signed with Islamic moderates that was criticized by Yusuf, a former warlord from one of Somalia's biggest clans.
Some analysts hope Yusuf's expected resignation and the departure of the Ethiopians - largely Christians in a Muslim country - may persuade the strongest and most hard-line Islamic militia, al-Shabab, to enter peace talks.
But some analysts say al-Shabab's territorial gains have put it in a strong position and would have little incentive to talk with the government.