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The United Nations Envoy for Somalia called on Somalia’s leaders to reach an agreement “as soon as possible” on the holding of elections, in comments made days after gunfire broke out during an opposition protest in Mogadishu, the capital.

On Monday, at a quarterly UN Security Council video meeting, James Swan urged “all Somalia’s political leaders to pull back from confrontation and avoid risky winner-take-all tactics.”

“Instead, this is a time to pursue dialogue and compromise to reach an inclusive and credible political agreement to hold elections as soon as possible based on the 17 September model,” he added.

On September 17, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known by his nickname Farmaajo, and regional leaders reached an agreement that abandoned a promised one-person, one-vote ballot but offered a common electoral course.

But since then, they have not been able to overcome disagreements about how to perform the elections.

By February 8, when Farmaajo was expected to step down, the nation skipped a deadline to hold an election. A coalition of opposition candidates has said in the midst of the constitutional crisis that it no longer recognizes Farmaajo as president and has vowed mass demonstrations before he steps down.

“I remain convinced that the consensus-based 17 September model offers the best available option to proceed quickly to an electoral process for selection of members of parliament, senators and the president,” Swan said.

“The message from partners has been clear that there should be no partial elections, no parallel processes and no unilateral actions by Somali leaders. Such approaches would only lead to greater division and risk of confrontation,” the UN envoy warned.

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On Friday, when shots rang out, a small group of protestors tried to march down the main airport road in Mogadishu, sending them ducking for cover. Who opened fire first was unknown.

Since then, the violence has subsided, but the months-old political tension has not eased, said Francisco Madeira, head of the Somalia mission of the African Union.

He also called for the holding of fair elections as soon as possible.

The weak federal government controls only part of the territory in Somalia, where the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab armed group remains involved, despite the support of the African Union army, largely supported by the European Union.

This force’s mandate expires on February 28 and is due to be renewed by the UN Security Council this weekend.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills, who also called for elections to take place, said the U.S. was joining Somalia on Monday in calling for certain al-Shabab leaders to be included on the list of UN sanctions.

“Today we joined with the federal government of Somalia in co-nominating three senior Al-Shabab leaders, Abukar Ali Adan, Maalim Ayman and Mahad Karate, to the 751 Somalia sanctions list,” he said.

These sanctions include the possibility of asset freezes and travel bans.

“These designations demonstrate that the international community will hold accountable those who undermine Somalia peace, security and stability,” Mills said.

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