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Military Takes Power in Guinea

Military leaders in Guinea have taken power, following the death of long-time President Lansana Conte.

Military leaders in Guinea say they have dissolved the government and constitution, promising to organize presidential elections soon, but giving no specific timetable for a return to civilian rule.

The early morning coup by soldiers from the newly-formed National Council for Democracy followed a 2:00 am broadcast announcing President Conte's death. In that broadcast, the head of Guinea's armed forces and other military leaders stood beside the head of the national assembly, Aboubacar Sompare, who called on the supreme court to follow the constitution and make him president.

The coup announcement that followed stipulated the dissolution of all institutions of the republic and said the National Council for Democracy would take charge of the destiny of the Guinean people. Government ministers were ordered to report immediately to a military barracks which has been the scene of several unsuccessful mutinies against the Conte government.

Captain Moussa David Camara announced the coup, saying a transitional council of military and civilian leaders would be formed to reflect the nation's ethnic balance. He says the military has taken power to stop what he calls widespread corruption, impunity, anarchy and a catastrophic economic situation. Camara said members of the Conte government are, in large part, responsible for what he called an "unprecedented economic and social crisis."

VOA's reporter in the capital, Conakry, says there have been no demonstrations, following the coup, and most people are following military orders to stay at home.

President Conte had been ill for some time. The nation's second president was thought to be in his 70's and was a heavy smoker who suffered from diabetes. He ruled Guinea since a 1984 coup that followed the death of post-independence leader Ahmed Sekou Toure.

President Conte won elections in 1993, 1998, and 2003. Most opposition parties boycotted that last ballot, which President Conte won with more than 95 percent of the vote.

Legislative elections had been planned for next year.