Somali cabinet votes to implement sharia law

MOGADISHU, March 10 (Reuters) - Somalia's cabinet voted on Tuesday to implement sharia law across the chaotic Horn of Africa nation, which has been wracked by conflict for 18 years.

New President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is trying to restore stability and security in Somalia, and experts say the move to establish sharia or Islamic law is aimed at undermining Islamist guerrillas who have waged an insurgency for the last two years.

"We approved Islamic law for the country. I hope the parliament will also endorse it in the days ahead," Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamud told reporters in Mogadishu, adding that Tuesday's vote would also be written into the constitution.

In a Reuters interview on Tuesday, Ahmed said peace talks were progressing and he hoped to have direct dialogue soon with rivals including the hardline al Shabaab rebels. [ID:nLA274894]

Western security services say his failed state could become a base for militants linked with Al Qaeda. Ahmed was elected in January under a U.N.-brokered reconciliation process that is Somalia's 15th attempt to set up central government since 1991. (Reporting by Abdi Guled and Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Daniel Wallis)