WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Political development in Mogadishu has laid the foundation necessary for Washington to recognize the government's legitimacy, the secretary of state said.
Somali President Hassan Sheik led a delegation to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. government officials. Until recently, there hasn't been a functioning central government in Somalia since the 1990s.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her meetings with the Somali president, said Washington was formally recognizing the government in Mogadishu for the first time since 1991.
"There is still a long way to go and many challenges to confront, but we have seen a new foundation for that better future being laid," she told reporters in a joint press briefing.
The government in Mogadishu has struggled to exert its full control as it fights for influence against al-Shabaab, a militant group allied with al-Qaida. The group this week claimed it executed French intelligence officer Denis Alex following a botched rescue attempt last week.
The Somali president acknowledged his administration was working to overcome a "very long, difficult period" but vowed to "make a valuable contribution to the region and the world at large."
Lawmakers in Mogadishu in November were lauded following the appointment of the 10-member Council of Ministers presented by the country's prime minister.