MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's prime minister said on Tuesday he was in a "constitutional" dispute with the president and was ready for parliament to intervene to settle it.
Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid gave no details of the argument, but any such high-level rift could damage a fledgling government that the West says is the best in decades in the war-torn country long considered a "failed state".
Western powers see Somalia as a launchpad for militant Islam across east Africa and beyond, and are keen to ensure the government is stable, even though it exerts little authority beyond the capital.
One member of parliament told Reuters that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had asked Saaid to resign after he had excluded some of the president's ministerial picks for a new cabinet.
The prime minister refused, saying he had the constitutional right to select cabinet ministers and that only parliament could dismiss him, the lawmaker said on condition of anonymity.
Mohamud did not comment on Saaid's statement at a news conference he held on Tuesday.
Saaid said his disagreement with Mohamud was "a constitutional one but not political", and that only parliament could settle the matter.
"I request the citizens to have trust in their leaders and the parliamentarians who have the main responsibility to resolve the row," Saaid said.
In May, the prime minister faced a vote of confidence for slowing down the pace of political reforms, but this was withdrawn after Mohamud lobbied parliamentarians.
Elected in September 2012, Mohamud, a political newcomer with a background in reconciling clan feuds, was seen as a vote for change. But he has struggled to overcome acrimonious clan politics, corruption and a stubborn Islamist insurgency.
Somalia is battling al Qaeda-linked insurgent group al Shabaab, which was driven out of Mogadishu by an African peacekeeping force in 2011, but has kept up a campaign of attacks against the government.
(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp