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West African Leaders Schedule Talks Over Guinea, Niger

West African Leaders Schedule Talks Over Guinea, Niger

West African Leaders Schedule Talks Over Guinea, Niger

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The Economic Community of West African States has denounced the worsening political situation in Guinea and has scheduled a summit of heads of state this week. The meeting will also look at the crisis in Niger.

Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua, who holds the rotating chairmanship of the Economic Community of West Africa States, has criticized Guinea's military leaders. He says events in Guinea undermined democracy and peace, and could destabilize the region.

Captain Moussa Camara seized power in Guinea in December, after the death of president Lansana Conteh. The United Nations says more than 150 people were killed on September 28 when government troops opened fire on a demonstration in Guinea's capital, Conakry, calling for junta leader Captain Camara not to stand for election.

A Guinean opposition delegation, made up of political, civil and labor leaders, is in Abuja before the ECOWAS summit. They have also held meetings with the International Contact Group on Guinea. A spokesman for the group, Mamadou Badiko, urged the international community to step up pressure on the military government in Guinea.

"We want the international community to help us isolate and ban completely the junta, and to set up a transitional body," Badiko said.

The Economic Community of West Africa States has appointed Burkina Faso President Blaise Campaore to mediate in the crisis. ECOWAS Commission President Mohammed Ibn Chambas condemned the repressive tendencies of the regime and pledged the sub-regional bloc's support for the people of Guinea.

"In this day and age, it is no longer acceptable for military regimes and for those who stage coup d'etats to benefit from their illegality, and to deny the population its freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and basic civic rights," Chambas said. "In the particular case of Guinea, the ECOWAS and international community are on the side of the people."

The one-day summit will also review the political situation in Niger, where President Mamadou Tandja has come under widespread criticism for changing the country's constitution to extend his term in office.