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Published: Thursday December 12, 2013 MYT 10:45:02 PM
Updated: Thursday December 12, 2013 MYT 10:45:52 PM

Economist favourite to be named next Somali prime minister

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - An economist based at the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia is favourite to be named Somalia's new prime minister, sources in the presidential palace said, after his predecessor was forced out by lawmakers in a vote of no confidence.

The palace sources, and another with connections to the former premier, named the front-running candidate as Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, 54, from Somalia's southern Gedo region. A Western diplomat also said Ahmed looked set to be named.

"Today, we got the news that Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed would be named as prime minister," one palace source said on Thursday.

The sources said Ahmed's appointment could come within 24 hours.

Analysts said the swift installment of a new prime minister was critical to ending weeks of political paralysis in the insurgency-hit nation as it struggles to cement a fragile recovery.

Western donors had fretted a prolonged vacuum at the head of government would disrupt efforts to rebuild state institutions and defeat al Qaeda-linked militants who control swathes of rural southern and central Somalia.

Ahmed left Somalia at the outset of civil war in 1991. Most recently he has been an economist at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and before that he was an advisor to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Journalists in Mogadishu were summoned to a news conference at the heavily fortified presidential palace, without being told what the subject would be.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh with additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic in Nairobi; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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