GUINEA

Mediator proposes talks between junta and opposition

President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso invited Guinea's governing junta and the opposition to hold talks in his country during his visit in Conakry, Guinea's capital. Last week, soldiers killed more than 150 protesters.

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AFP - Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore invited Guinea's junta and the opposition on Monday to hold talks in his country to ease tensions after soldiers killed more than 150 protesters last week.

"You have to come to the table, state your problems and talk about them with the people on the opposite side," Compaore, mediator in Guinea's political crisis, told a news conference during a visit in Conakry.

He said he wants to receive the military leadership and the opposition parties in Ouagadougou but did not give a time frame for such a meeting.

The junta's leader, captain Moussa Dadis Camara, did not attend the press conference but his special advisor Idrissa Cherif stressed that there would be a meeting in Ouagadougou.

"However no date has been set," he added.

Former prime minister Sydia Toure, an opposition leader whose head was still bandaged from a beating by soldiers on September 28, said the talks would be held "in the coming days".

Compaore began talks with the junta and the opposition on Monday in his role as regional mediator a week after troops killed more than 150 demonstrators in the Guinean capital.

Toure said Guinea was "permanently unsafe" and spoke of "the terror that swooped down on the people".

Former Guinean prime minister Francois Lonseny Fall, an opposition leader, said the regime's opponents have "asked for the junta to leave and for a civil government to be installed to lead the transition" to general elections planned for early 2010.

On September 28 Guinean security forces opened fire on demonstrators who gathered in Conakry's main stadium to protest against the prospect of Camara becoming a candidate at January 31 presidential elections.

Rights groups and the United Nations say more than 150 people were killed and women were raped by soldiers. The authorities have given a death toll of 56, while Camara has denied responsibility.

Compaore is acting as a "facilitator" on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ease tensions in Guinea following the killings.

 

Conakry was calm Monday but opposition forces organised a "town on strike" operation in Kissidougou, 600 kilometres (370 miles) southwest of the capital "to commemorate the massacre of September 28, 2009".

It is the first anti-junta protest organised outside Conakry since the killings.

"The market is closed, the administration is paralysed, there is no traffic and the streets are deserted," official Nfansoumane Kaba, told AFP. "We demand that the junta steps down."

International pressure on Camara, who seized power on December 23 last year, is mounting. Former colonial ruler France has said it will no longer work with Camara following the "terrible and savage" violence, and wants to see an African peacekeeping force sent to the country.

In response Camara lashed out at Paris, saying that Guinea "is not a subprefecture, not an arrondissement (district) of France or of any (foreign) power".

Despite having vast mineral resources including over a quarter of the world's known reserves of bauxite -- used to produce aluminium -- Guinea has remained one of the world's poorest countries.

The junta seized power in December after the death of Lansana Conte who ruled the country with an iron fist since 1984.

Camara vowed the military would only hold power for a short period to crack down on corruption and drug trafficking before calling elections.

Initially the junta leader said he would not be a candidate in the elections but later told international mediators he might run for office.

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