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US Renews Call on Guinean Junta to Step Aside


The United States is renewing its call on Guinea's ruling junta to yield power to an elected government, and it is indirectly scolding China for reportedly reaching a multi-billion-dollar mining deal with the authorities in Conakry.

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The Guinean junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara has come under intense international criticism after troops, including elite presidential guards, opened fire on demonstrators in the capital's main stadium September 28.

Local human rights groups say more than 150 people were killed and they say a similar number of women protesters were raped by soldiers.

The demonstrators had turned out to protest the apparent intention of junta leader Camara to run in elections planned for January despite earlier promises to step down.

In the wake of the violence, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson was dispatched to Conakry to tell Mr. Camara to restore order, allow an independent investigation of the violence, and honor his pledge to step down.

At a news briefing Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley reiterated the U.S. call for a return to elected, civilian rule.

"We are significantly concerned about events in Guinea," he said. "We have made clear both in discussions there in Conakry, and discussions here in Washington, that the current junta led by Captain Dadis Camara should step aside, should open the door for legitimate elections so that a legitimate government duly elected by the people of Guinea can emerge. We also think there should be an international investigation of the events recently that resulted in the deaths of over 150 people," he added.

In the Senegalese capital Dakar Wednesday, diplomats of the international contact group on Guinea demanded that junta leaders formalize arrangements by Friday that would rule out their participation in the presidential elections.

Meanwhile in Addis Ababa, the European Union's commissioner for development and humanitarian aid Karel de Gucht said the September 28 killings were a crime against humanity for which junta leader Camara should eventually face trial for.

The junta leader, for his part, has denied involvement in the killings, which he attributed to rogue elements of the security forces. He has named a 31-member commission including three members of the junta to investigate the incident.

State Department spokesman Crowley had indirect criticism for China, which the Conakry government said Tuesday plans to invest at least $7 billion in mines and infrastructure in Guinea, which has the world's largest bauxite reserves.

Crowley said would-be investors have a responsibility to take respect for human rights and good governance into account when contemplating business dealings with countries like Guinea.

He also said the State Department, which ordered the departure of non-essential U.S. embassy employees and dependents from Conakry early this month, has decided to bring them back to the United States.

The embassy personnel and family members had initially been sent temporarily to Senegal but Crowley said they are now being sent home because officials do not expect the situation in Conakry to be settled anytime soon.

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