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US Examining Options in Response to Apparent Coup in Guinea

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The State Department says U.S. officials are examining options including possible aid cuts in response to the apparent military coup in Guinea.  The United States is calling for an immediate return to civilian rule in the west African state. 

Officials in Washington say the United States will be consulting with allies in west Africa and Europe on ways to bring pressure on military authorities in Guinea in the wake of the announcement from Conakry that a group of officers has seized power.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said the United States will be examining options including possible U.S. aid cuts to try to reverse the coup, which occurred hours after the death Monday of Guinea's long-time President Lansana Conte.

Officers from the so-called National Council for Democracy and Development said coup leader Moussa Dadis Camara would become head of state, and that elections will be held before the end of 2010.

Spokesman Wood told reporters there should be an immediate return to civilian rule.

"One of the things we want to see happen immediately is the restoration of civilian, democratic rule," Wood said.  "We are very disappointed that this transition process in Guinea does not have any civilian component.  So we obviously want to see civilian, democratic constitutional rule back in Guinea as soon as possible."

Wood said the situation in Conakry is calm, but tense, with an overnight curfew in place.

He said the U.S. review of options would begin immediately, though he gave no indication when decisions might be made.

The Bush administration is obligated by an act of Congress to halt non-humanitarian aid to countries in which civilian rule is overturned by a military coup.

It suspended more than $20 million worth of military aid, peacekeeping training and other assistance to Mauritania after the coup there last August, and continues to call for the release and return to office of detained former Mauritanian President Sidi Mohamed Abdallahi.

The United States has various aid programs in Guinea including military training, democracy-promotion and agriculture, though spokesman Wood had no overall dollar figure for the assistance.

The late Guinean President Conte had ruled the country with an authoritarian hand since a 1984 coup, but had been elected to the office three times - most recently in 2003 when the opposition boycotted the vote.

The State Department said Tuesday it hoped that a more-democratic governing structure would emerge in Guinea after the death of President Conte. 

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