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Junta chief claims to be new president

Army captain Moussa Dadis Camara has announced that he is Guinea's new president following the death on Monday of the country's longtime leader. Camara has promised elections in 2010 amid international calls for a democratic transition.


AFP - The coup bid in Guinea is sowing fears of destabilising its fragile west African neighbours -- notably former war-torn Liberia and Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, still gripped by political crisis.

All three nations are on heightened alert as coup leaders tighten their grip in Guinea, declaring a nationwide curfew on Wednesday and ruling out elections for the next two years.

In terms of democracy, "it's a serious reversal, especially for the very volatile region of the Mano River" region that includes the four countries, said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the Economic Community of West African States.

The threats are elsewhere as well.

Only a month ago, attackers targeted the president's residence in neighbouring Guinea-Bissau in a move authorities called a mutiny.

In coup-prone Africa, the region is taking this latest attempt seriously.

Indeed, the putschists, whose leader proclaimed himself the country's new president, claimed to be acting to preserve Guinea's territorial integrity. They alleged that troops loyal to the previous regime had been seeking intervention from foreign mercenaries from neighbouring countries.

A day after the putsch was announced in Conakry, Sierra Leone heightened its security Wednesday to deal a possible influx of Guinean refugees.

The measures include 24-hour air and land surveillance of the country's borders, along with stepped-up patrols of the country's territorial waters, police said.

Tellingly, extra security measures are also in place in the disputed, diamond-rich area of Yenga, on the border with Guinea, local journalists reported.

Guinea's other southern neighbour Liberia is likewise on heightened alert, although Justice Minister Philip Banks has downplayed the situation.

"That does not mean that our national security and peace are under threat, no. But we have to take some preventive measures," he said.

And in Ivory Coast to the east, the United Nations peacekeeping mission ONUCI has announced it was ratcheting up its vigilance so that "what is happening in Guinea doesn't cross the border."

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is also "closely following" developments in Guinea, according to an informed source.

Indeed, western Ivory Coast bordering on both Liberia and Guinea has been considered for years the most unstable part of the country, which essentially remains split between north and south ever since a failed 2002 coup attempt.

"A zone of tension with a porous border," summed up one western military official about the west. But, the official added, "the region is not a completely lawless zone."

So far, the French Licorne troops who help out the UN with peacekeeping operations in Ivory Coast say they have not detected any unusual events, but are ready to act if necessary.

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