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Guinea Interim Government Could Help Stabilize West Africa

Regional diplomats say Guinea's new transitional government should keep to its timetable to organize elections within six months. That could help stabilize a region still recovering from conflict in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

The African Union is urging Guinea's new interim authority to restore constitutional order through free and transparent elections by June.

That transitional government is led jointly by the country's acting military leader General Sekouba Konate and the new civilian prime minister, Jean Marie Dore.

The prime minister says responsibility for meeting that electoral deadline does not rest entirely with the interim authority. He says the success of the election depends on its organization. And if there is not enough money to organize it properly, Guinea will continue to struggle.

Prime Minister Dore says that if the transitional government moves forward too quickly, people will not know if the conditions of the election were correct. After the results are declared, the interim authority will need everyone to agree that they were correct. That, he says, is the way to put Guinea on a path of democracy.

Mr. Dore says the country needs the confidence of its development partners and of the international community because Guinea on its own cannot go forward toward greater stability and credibility.

The international community is promising to help pay for the vote and for civilian observers to help guarantee the security of the transitional government.

With regional humanitarian officials preparing to feed hundreds of thousands of refugees if Guinea's security situation deteriorates, a stable return to civilian rule will go a long way toward easing concerns about more violence in West Africa.

Said Djinnit is the U.N. Secretary Generals' special representative for West Africa.

"If you look at Guinea, you will see that it is surrounded by Sierra Leone, Liberia, coming out of a conflict," he said. "Cote d'Ivoire also trying to emerge from a crisis. Guinea-Bissau which went through a serious crisis, which is still having serious difficulties. All countries in which the United Nations has deployed important missions, sometimes important peacekeeping operations."

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States are preparing to send civilian monitors to Guinea.

The International Contact Group for Guinea says the deployment of a UN/African Union peacekeeping force is the best way to ensure peaceful elections and help reform the military. The group says international donors should continue to support not only the elections and improved security but also economic recovery and social reform.