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 last member of an extremist cell threatening to prepare attacks in Rio has been arrested
Claiming that the WTO is a disaster, White House nominee Donald Trump said that if there was no renegotiation then the US could pull out of the WTO
A new law that raises the pension age has been the subject of much contention with thousands rallying in Morocco
Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has resigned following a leak of emails suggesting an insider attempt to hobble the campaign of Hillary Clinton’s rival in the White House primaries Bernie Sanders.
Theresa May will make her first visit to Ireland to speak to the First Minister regarding Brexit
Ansbach mayor says officials unclear about responsibility, number of explosions
Consul-General at consulate 'proud of 'unprecedented crowd' in Boston showing 'support for democracy'
Labor unions have warned that the law will damage workers' rights
"I have the scars to prove it," quips the former secretary of state, painted by her enemies as "crooked," "corrupt" and even an enabler of her husband's affairs.
Army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement late Saturday that five of the soldiers had been found, including the unit's commanding officer.
Using a 9mm handgun, the 18-year-old German-Iranian shot dead nine people, most of them fellow teenagers, before killing himself with a shot to the head.
The latest deaths come after the government on Tuesday reported fighting had claimed the lives of seven servicemen in the highest one-day death toll in the conflict for two months.
The G20 cited several other factors complicating the global economic environment, among them "geopolitical conflicts, extremism and refugee flows".
It said the talks were aimed at "finding solutions to the short, medium and long-term future of the Niger Delta region", home to the country's massive oil and gas resources.
Fears of a renewed eurozone debt crisis are rife on the financial markets if Italy does not address the 360 billion euros ($398 billion) in bad debt sitting in its banks.
Sources in Kadhimiya hospital, where the victims of Sunday's explosion were taken, said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in a critical condition.