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Guinea Opposition Debating Military Offer to Name Civilian PM

Opposition leaders in Guinea are discussing the military government's offer to name a new civilian prime minister as part of a process toward new elections. Guinea's acting military leader says the ruling council is trying to restore public confidence following September's killing of opposition demonstrators.

Guinea's political leaders are responding to an offer made by General Sekouba Konate after visiting the country's wounded military leader in Morocco last week.

Konate said Guinea's ruling military council decided that its opponents should choose a new prime minister to form a transitional government to organize elections.

That is in keeping with mediation efforts by the Economic Community of West African States to get back to elected government after Guinea's military coup one year ago.

In their search for a new prime minister, the head of the Union of Democratic Forces party Oury Bah says Guinea's opposition leaders must choose carefully.

Bah believes the new prime minister should be someone who is dynamic, intelligent, politically and technically competent, and has great moral integrity to lead the country on the path to democratic change.

Bah says the new prime minister and all members of the transitional government must be blocked from running in the next election. He says that is essential to ensuring the neutrality of the transitional authority that is organizing the vote.

Human rights attorney Thierno Balde says the best choice may be someone who is not a politician as that person may be tempted to extend the transition for their own benefit.

"Even if you have a good prerogative which will give the prime minister the independence to organize free and fair elections, we need also to have a leader who has the commitment to organize these elections and not to stay longer than we need for this transition," Balde said.

Balde says a prolonged transition with delayed elections like the current situation in Ivory Coast will only bring more problems.

Bah says it all depends on the military allowing the new prime minister to hold real power.

If the transitional period fails, Bah says there will be no presidential election in Guinea.

Conakry Archbishop Monsignor Robert Sarah has been mentioned as a possible consensus choice to be the new prime minister. So too has the head of the Union for Progress party Jean-Marie Dore.

Dore says choosing a new prime minister is an important decision for the opposition coalition. But because many of the country's political leaders are absent, Dore says the decision should be delayed until they return.

Regional diplomats are concerned about security for civilians in a transitional government as Guinea's military is rejecting international calls for foreign civilian and military observers.

General Konate says joint security units from the gendarmerie, the police, and the army will protect opposition leaders under the minister in charge of presidential security.

A U.N. investigation into the September killing of at least 157 opposition demonstrators says the presidential guard was directly involved in that violence. The inquiry says there are sufficient grounds for presuming criminal responsibility by the military government.

The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into the killing. Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is expected in Conakry next week to determine if the crimes committed September 28 constitute crimes against humanity.