World Bulletin/News Desk
Somalia's president dismissed a U.N. report that accused senior leaders of corruption and defended his record as he campaigned for re-election in a landmark vote.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who took over as head of a Western-backed transitional government in 2009, also promised he would step down if he lost - in an apparent answer to some critics who are concerned he could be planning to cling on to power.
Mired in conflict for more than two decades, the Horn of Africa state is on the cusp of a presidential election that will end a succession of United Nations-backed transitional governments, in place since 2004.
Western and regional states have pumped in millions of dollars in aid, and sent African troops to help crush al Qaeda-affiliated militants.
But the United Nations' Somalia monitoring group in July said it had found that, out of every $10 received by the transitional federal government (TFG) between 2009-2010, $7 never made into the state's coffers.
"We regret this report. It is a fabricated report and a lie. Those people who compiled it are intent for Somalia to stay as it is," Ahmed told Reuters on Thursday in the plush garden of Villa Somalia, his official residence in Mogadishu.
"If money had been seized, Somalia would never have reached the stage it has today," Ahmed said, citing progress in security conditions.
Ahmed, the current prime minister and parliament speaker are all contesting the election due to take place on or around August 20, the end of the TFG's mandate.
Under a complex procedure, tribal alders are in the process of nominating members of a new parliament. Those parliamentarians, once vetted by a committee, will then vote for the president who will start a four-year term.
The U.N. report said that in 2011 almost a quarter of the government's total expenditure - more than $12 million - was absorbed by the offices of the three top leaders.
"It is clear from the Monitoring Group's investigations that the political will to enact ... reform is lacking in the highest echelons of government," the report said.
Ahmed denied that funds had been misappropriated, saying they had been spent to lift Somalia out of its interminable state of crisis.
Privately though, Somalia-focused diplomats in Nairobi say Ahmed, a former leader of an Islamist rebel group, has failed to deliver on security gains and basic public services.
International observers say it is too difficult to predict who will win the election in a country where clan politics, rather than political qualifications, often determine an individual's political future.
Ahmed, whose mandate was supposed to end in 2011 before being extended by another year, said he had no intention of holding onto power.
"We are ready to accept the outcome, whatever it is," he told Reuters.
The announcement was made at a press conference held at AU headquarters in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The squabbling between India and Pakistan has held back SAARC for years, with the two sides' disagreements preventing progress in the consensus-based grouping.
People around the world turn to social media to express solidarity with protesters in Ferguson.
The decision swells an EU sanctions list over Ukraine that already covers 119 people and 23 entities.
Nearly 6 million people have been displaced by right-wing paramilitary groups and Marxist rebels since the conflict began in 1964
Khamenei, the ultimate authority on all Iranian matters of state, said: "For the same reasons I wasn't against negotiations, I'm also not against the extension
Roughly 5,000 students from the Gaza Strip have been unable to cross into Egypt to resume their studies due to Egypt's closure of the Rafah crossing
Decision taken after killing of four anti-polio workers in state capital on Wednesday
Fighters dressed in army uniforms attacked an Indian army base in the occupied Kashmi, as the leaders of India and Pakistan attended a regional summit aimed at boosting trade.
One of the draft laws presented by the conservative prime minister covers financing of political parties and the other aims to improve transparency and prevention of conflict of interests in government roles.
European Parliament MEPs voted on a motion filed against European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his commission over the so-called LuxLeaks affair.
Reconciliation not expected in potential cooperation between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots for sharing Cyprus' natural gas resources, say experts
78 children in Egypt under the age of 16 have been imprisoned for joining Muslim Brotherhood rallies calling for the return of ousted president Mohamed Morsi
Doctors earlier boarded the ship to examine the migrants, who included about 200 women and children. Most of the migrants were believed to be from Afghanistan and Syria
The proposals include giving Scotland the power to set income tax rates, some influence over welfare spending, and powers to decide how the Scottish parliament and other devolved political structures are selected and run.
American senators have written a joint letter to Uzbek leader Karimov requesting the release of political prisoners in that country.