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    Guinea-Bissau Foreign Minister Appeals to UN for Stabilization Force

    Margaret Besheer

    Guinea-Bissau's foreign minister, who was outside the country when elements of the military seized power one week ago in a coup d'état, has appealed to the United Nations Security Council to authorize a stabilization force to help restore the legitimate elected government.

    Foreign Minister Mamadú Jaló Pires told the 15-nation council that since 1998, his country's military has been responsible for four coup d'états and the murder of one president as well as several other high-ranking officials.  He also accused members of the military of having links to the international drug trafficking cartels that plague the tiny West African nation.

    Because of these events, he said the country needs the assistance of a stabilization force of peacekeepers from regional groups ECOWAS and the African Union, as well as the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries  known as the CPLP, mandated by the United Nations to help reform the security sector.

    "The deployment of a peacekeeping force to Guinea-Bissau, authorized by the Security Council, with a broad mandate and over an extended period of time in order to definitively turn the page and allow for the establishment of a legitimate, democratic state in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau," he said.

    The April 12 coup took place as presidential candidates were set to begin campaigning for a run-off election that was to be held April 29.

    Minister Jaló said it is unclear where and in what condition Interim President Raimundo Pereira and leading presidential candidate Carlos Gomes, Junior are being held after their detention by the coup's perpetrators.

    Gomes won the first round of voting and appeared to have a comfortable lead in the run-off against former president Kumba Yala, who has strong ties to the military.
    Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese colony and retains close relations with Lisbon.

    Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas, who flew in for Thursday's Security Council session, said those responsible for the April 12 coup should be targeted with sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes.

    "The European Union, beyond suspending its cooperation with Guinea-Bissau, will be ready to move forward with sanctions on individuals who continue to obstruct peace, security and the normal functioning of the constitutional institutions.  We call on this council to consider similar targeted measures.  We also believe that this council should assume its responsibility and seriously consider the call of the legitimate government ofGuinea-Bissau for a United Nations-mandated multilateral, stabilization mission," Portas said.

    He said such a mission would include contingents from ECOWAS, the African Union, and the community of Portuguese speaking countries (CPLP).

    Ivory Coast Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba, who spoke on behalf of ECOWAS, said the West African bloc intends to "immediately deploy a military contingent" to ensure the protection of important personalities and institutions, as well as the envisioned transition and electoral process.

    Angola has had 500 troops in Guinea-Bissau for the last year to help implement security sector reform.  Angolan Foreign Minister George Chikoti, who addressed the meeting on behalf of the CPLP, also supported the call for creating a stabilization force, asking the Security Council to adopt "appropriate measures" to lead to the restoration of order.

    Diplomats said the Security Council would probably want to see all regional mediation efforts exhausted before considering authorizing a small stabilization mission comprising Portuguese-speaking and regional countries.

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