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Guinean Opposition Threatens Protest Over Upcoming Election

Opposition parties in Guinea are threatening a wave of protests if the government refuses to postpone the December 21 presidential elections. Guinean opposition leaders are boycotting the balloting because President Lansana Conte, who has been in office since 1984, is seeking another term.

Opposition leaders are threatening, what they call, considerable action if the government does not convene a broad political forum to discuss the organization of the upcoming vote.

They say there could be civil war if authorities refuse to engage in a dialogue with the opposition. The threats were made at a news conference Tuesday in the capital, Conakry.

The government has responded with a warning to politicians and journalists that inciting civil disobedience will not be tolerated. It called the opposition leaders irresponsible.

One of the main opposition leaders, Jean-Marie Dore, says President Conte decided on the election date unilaterally and did not give them enough time to prepare. The date of the elections was announced in October.

Mr. Dore also accuses President Conte of changing the constitution in 2001 to run for a third term. He said that constitutional amendment should be repealed. Another main opposition leader, Mamadou Ba, says President Conte should not run because of his poor health.

He says Mr. Conte is not even able to do the minimum of what he used to do, which was just to show up at public events.

President Conte, who is 69, took power in a 1984 coup. He is believed to suffer from diabetes and heart problems. During his rare public appearances, he often has difficulty walking.

The leading opponents of the president announced earlier this month they will boycott the elections as long he is a candidate. They claim the two previous elections in 1993 and 1998 were rigged, and say there is no point for them to run again.

The European Union is refusing to help finance the vote or send observers, because of concerns over preparations for the vote.

Opposition parties also charge Mr. Conte's government with multiple human rights violations.

Mr. Dore was briefly detained this month for allegedly insulting the president, and reporters for private newspapers are complaining about limits imposed on election coverage.

A journalist with L'Independent newspaper, Mamadou Dian Balde, says reporters are frequently intimidated by the authorities and work in fear of police reprisals.