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Guinea Military Ruler Says Vote Will Not Be Delayed

Guinea's military leader said he will not delay legislative and presidential elections scheduled for later this year, despite calls by other army leaders to postpone that vote. The army took power five months ago in a coup following the death of long-time president Lansana Conte.

Military ruler Moussa Camara said elections in Guinea will go ahead as scheduled.

In a meeting with German Ambassador Karl Prinz, Captain Camara said, for him, the elections are in 2009. He has signed an agreement promising not to be a candidate in 2009, and that will not change.

Guinea's Armed Forces Chief of Staff Colonel Oumar Sanoh has asked Captain Camara to delay the vote because he said the country is not ready. In a nationally broadcast appeal, Sanoh said the people of Guinea want the elections postponed because Captain Camara has started projects which have not been finished.

The military took power in a coup last December, suspending the civilian government and vowing to organize "free, credible, and transparent elections." But Captain Camara said that vote could not be held before 2010 without comprising the nation's territorial integrity.

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States suspended Guinea over the coup and urged military rulers to hold a vote sooner. A coalition of political parties, labor unions, civil society groups, and religious leaders asked for a vote this year.

Captain Camara and his ruling National Council for Democracy and Development agreed, announcing legislative elections for October 11 and presidential balloting December 13 with a second round, if necessary, on December 27.

The German Ambassador said there has been progress in Guinea, but while the military council may be for democracy, he told Captain Camara it is not a democracy.

In interviews over the past few days, Prinz said Captain Camara has limited his not being a candidate to 2009. But if it is necessary to postpone the election, the ambassador asked him, "Does that mean you may be a candidate in 2010?" That, the ambassador said, is what the European Union is worried about.

"I am the President of Guinea. I do not need conditions from you. I want to save my people," Camara shouted.

Captain Camara told the ambassador, "You speak to a president, please. I could have refused to give you the opportunity to speak." Camara said he is not a criminal, that he defends Guinea with his patriotism and the army. He said he got this power without spilling blood, so the ambassador should respect him.

Human Rights Watch said Guinea's military is responsible for a series of armed robberies. An April report by the New-York-based group documented 19 cases of armed robbery, extortion, rape, and intimidation against lawyers and judges.

Captain Camara said he intends to completely reform Guinea's armed forces but has not received any international financial assistance to improve conditions.