Nairobi - Instead of fighting his way into Mogadishu, President Abdullahi Yusuf plans to win control by negotiating the disarmament of its militias.

To many that goal might seem out of character coming from an Ethiopian-backed career soldier not known for his diplomatic skills. Coaxing warlords to lay down their guns has been the stated aim of all of Somalia's many peace attempts in 14 years.

They failed in the face of militia bosses keen to hang on to lucrative fiefdoms in one of the world's most anarchic cities. But Yusuf said he could succeed because he would prepare thoroughly. "Step by step we are going towards Mogadishu," he said. "I still have four years of my term left and I hope Somalia will be pacified sooner than that."

Ten months after he was elected, Yusuf and most of his ministers are still based in provincial towns as they consider Mogadishu too risky. Yusuf said he was determined to "pacify" the city, infested by an estimated 60 000 gunmen.

But he would not bow to demands that he go there now.

"What they are asking is absolutely impossible and in my opinion the speaker of parliament and other government members who are in Mogadishu are making obstructions of the process."

He said the city's current militia bosses had failed because they had not offered demobilised gunmen alternative employment.

"If they put down their weapons we have to create something for them," Yusuf said. - Reuters