Guinea Coup Leaders Meet Civil Society

Guinea's new military rulers met with civilian leaders Saturday, again promising to hold elections in two years. Senegal's president says the international community should support the junior officers who took power in a coup this past week.

Coup leader Moussa Camara welcomed more than 1,000 political, religious, labor, and civil society leaders to Conakry's main army barracks. They were joined by National Assembly speaker Aboubacar Sompare who Guinea's constitution says should have been named interim president following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte.

But coup leaders toppled the civilian government Tuesday within hours of Conte's death, forcing Sompare and Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare to hand over power.

Foreign diplomats were to meet with Camara later Saturday. That meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday. Most of the international community still opposes the military take-over. The African Union, the United States and the European Union have condemned the coup and called for Guinea to quickly return to civilian rule.

But Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade broke with his African Union colleagues Friday, telling reporters in Paris that the international community should support Camara's new ruling council. President Wade said coup leaders deserve international support because they are promising to hold free and fair elections.

Camara says the six civilians and 26 soldiers on the new National Council for Democracy and Development will organize elections in December 2010. President Wade, who spoke by telephone with Camara Friday, said the former army captain and self-declared president is an honest young man who has taken power to fill a dangerous vacuum.

The Senegalese president called on all countries, in particular former-colonial-power France to take the coup leaders at their word, and, Mr. Wade said, "not throw the first stone."

The French government holds the rotating chair of the European Union. Paris has called on Guinea's new military leaders to hold elections within six months. President Wade said he believes it would take at least eight months to register voters and hold an election.

The Senegalese leader said Camara asked him to be the military government's spokesman to the international community and believes the coup leader has no political ambition and will not be a candidate in future elections.

Camara told civilians assembled at the Alfa Yaya Diallo barracks Saturday that military leaders are freezing all gold mining and will re-examine all mineral contracts signed by the former government. Guinea is the world's largest exporter of aluminum ore and has deposits of diamonds, iron, and nickel.

Camara again criticized the former government, saying those found guilty of corruption will "be judged and punished before the people."

Military leaders Saturday lifted a nighttime curfew in the capital.  

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