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Somali Parliament Approves New PM

Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, right, flanked by Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, addresses delegates in the capital Mogadishu, Dec. 17, 2014.

Somali lawmakers approved the appointment of Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as prime minister on Wednesday, and the United States and United Nations renewed pressure on him and his fellow leaders to build a stable government for the war-torn country.

The speaker of Parliament said 218 of the 224 lawmakers present voted in favor of the appointment.

A U.S. State Department statement urged Sharmarke, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and other leaders to "make progress toward realizing goals of critical importance to the nation." It said those goals included a "constitutional review, state formation, election preparations, development of military and police forces, and public financial management reforms."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Somalia's leaders to "regain momentum in the political process" and "take steps to prevent future political crises."

Sharmarke became the country's third prime minister in two years. Diplomats have warned that political turmoil could undermine efforts to end more than 20 years of lawlessness and conflict in Somalia.

The U.N.-backed government is trying to stabilize the country in the face of continued insurgency by al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.

Former Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed was voted out December 6, following a dispute with the president about a Cabinet reorganization.

Sharmarke spent the last few months as Somalia's ambassador to the United States. Previously, he served as prime minister for 18 months in 2009 and 2010.