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Guinea's Ailing President Goes to Switzerland for Health Check-up

The government of Guinea says its ailing president, Lansana Conté, has flown to Switzerland for the second time in five months for what is described as a health check-up. There are increasing concerns about his health.

Just before 10:00 a.m. local time Friday, Guinea's minister of presidential affairs said on national radio that President Lansana Conté had flown to Geneva for a medical check-up.

Mr. Conté, no longer able to walk unassisted, is in his seventies and a diabetic. Many suspect he suffers from other ailments too.

Some reports suggest he has been diagnosed with leukemia, though this has not been officially confirmed.

Mr. Conté took power in a coup in April 1984 but the state of his health has raised concerns about succession with the next presidential election not due until 2008.

The election is seen as a first step towards democracy in Guinea. But the lack of a strong opposition or a clear successor within the president's own party has raised concerns about the prospect of a power vacuum.

The 71-year-old Conté has allowed opposition parties since 1992, but the actions of political groups and independent media remain severely restricted. Conté won his latest seven-year term in December 2003, claiming 95 percent of the vote in elections that were boycotted by the major opposition parties.