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Guinea Military Frees Three Former Ministers

Military rulers in Guinea have released three former mining ministers who they accuse of stealing money while in power.

Former prime minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare and former mining ministers Ousmane Sylla and Louceny Nabe were all released on bail after the military says they agreed to repay money stolen from Guinea's mining ministry.

Souare was toppled as prime minister in December when Army Captain Moussa Camara took power following the death of long-time president Lansana Conte. Military authorities have since undertaken an anti-corruption drive that has included the arrest of top law-enforcement officials and President Conte's son Ousmane confessing on television to smuggling cocaine.

Justice Minister Colonel Seba Loholrmou says former prime minister Souare has already repaid $111,000 of the $2.5 million the military says he took while serving as mining minister in 2005 and 2006. The justice minister says Souare has promised to repay the balance in three installments by the end of the year.

Loholrmou says Souare posted his house and land as collateral for what is still owed.

The justice minister says Sylla has agreed to return $400,000. Sylla has already repaid more than $40,000 and has also promised the balance in three installments by the end of the year, with his house and land as collateral.

Loholrmou says Nabe owes $153,000 and has already repaid more than $40,000 with the promise to repay the remainder by the end of the year with land as collateral.

None of the three former ministers commented on their repayment agreements following their release. In a previously televised interrogation, Souare said all the money he was accused of stealing was spent on rehabilitating a hospital and purchasing vehicles for the mining ministry.

As for the fourth mining minister detained, Loholrmou says Ahmed Kante is accused of stealing more than $500,000, but denies any impropriety.

Loholrmou says Kante has not agreed to repay anything and after three days in custody is not cooperating with authorities, so he is still being detained.

Captain Camara's drive to fight corruption has won his military government considerable popular support.

He came to power promising to organize "free, credible, and transparent elections." While vowing not to be a candidate in that vote, Captain Camara said elections could not be held before 2010 because "Guinea's territorial integrity could be compromised."

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States suspended Guinea following Camara's coup and urged him to hold a vote sooner. Earlier this month, a coalition of Guinean political parties, labor unions, civil society groups, and religious leaders asked the ruling council to organize a vote this year.

The military this week agreed, promising to hold legislative elections in October and presidential elections in December.