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Guinea Presidential Campaign Suspended Over Violence

Guinea's acting president General Sekouba Konate, left, speaks with Prime Minister of the transitional government Jean Marie Dore during the inauguration ceremony of Camp Boiro in Conakry, (file photo)

Guinea's acting president General Sekouba Konate, left, speaks with Prime Minister of the transitional government Jean Marie Dore during the inauguration ceremony of Camp Boiro in Conakry, (file photo)

Guinea's electoral commission has suspended campaigning after clashes between rival supporters before the final round of presidential elections scheduled for this coming Sunday.

Guinea's electoral commission has provisionally suspended campaigning pending the outcome of talks with both candidates, following two days of violence in the capital, Conakry.

Interim Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore called an emergency Cabinet meeting and vowed to prosecute anyone who violates that ban by holding demonstrations. Mr. Dore is expected to meet separately with former prime minister Cello Diallo and his electoral rival Alpha Conde in hopes of finding a way to keep the electoral timetable on track.

Police used tear gas to break up rival demonstrations by Diallo and Conde supporters Saturday and Sunday. The groups clashed following last week's conviction of two senior electoral officials accused of falsifying results from June's first round of voting.

Conde's party brought the charges against the electoral commission president and his head of planning, who were found guilty of withholding results from some polling stations. Diallo's party says the court decision is aimed at disrupting the electoral commission and delaying the second round of voting, in which Diallo is seen as the frontrunner.

Makale Traoré is Conde's campaign director.

Traore says Conde was surrounded at party headquarters by militants from other parties and the government had to send soldiers to free him. She says one of her party's supporters was shot dead and another was injured. Traore says it is useless to throw oil on the fire. She says Conde's party wants to campaign peacefully.

Saliou Diallo is communications director for Diallo's party.

Diallo says the violence is unbelievable. He says it is coming from people who do not want this election to happen and are trying to disrupt the process. Diallo says the violence is not coming from his party because they want the vote to take place on the 19th. Some people are accusing Diallo's party of starting the violence, but he says, on the contrary, they are the victims.

Diallo is from the Peul ethnic group, which make up about 40 percent of Guinea's population. Conde is from the Malinke ethnic group, which make up about one-third of the population. So violence between the two groups has far wider potential consequences, especially in a country that is trying to end nearly two years of military rule.

Speaking to reporters before the violence, the head of the European Union mission to Guinea, Alexander Lambsdorff urged both candidates to refrain from electoral rhetoric that antagonizes opponents.

Lambsdorff says it is not correct to have inflammatory speeches, speeches that use community aspects to inflame the situation. He says these are unfounded accusations concerning the opposite camp and are things that would enrage their supporters.

Voter Mamadou Diallo says choosing a president should be bigger than ethnicity.

Diallo says voters in Guinea should avoid certain discussions because they will all meet again after the elections. Diallo says Guineans should forget hatred and ethnocentrism.

Voter Abdoulaye Daffe says supporting your candidate should not mean insulting his opponent.

Because there are only two candidates left, he says voters should not create arguments between themselves. He says people should know how to protect their future. If you are for someone, he says, you can support them as you like without provoking other people.

Voter Amara Soumah says it is up to Guinea's voters to ensure a peaceful election.

Soumah says it is up to us. There will not be any violence if voters do not want violence, and that should be avoided at all costs. Soumah says people in Guinea should accept the verdict of the polls because the one who wins will be the president of all the country.

In its announcement suspending the campaign, the electoral commission said that decision would not delay Sunday's scheduled vote. But the rules for this election give both candidates 14 days to campaign before the polls. So their time will either be cut short or the vote will be postponed.