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Four Hurt in Guinea Clashes Ahead of Talks

A security officer walks past a burned car in Conakry, Guinea, where youths clashed with security forces, raising pressure on President Alpha Conde ahead of talks with the opposition on a dispute over the timing of elections, May 7, 2015.

At least four people were injured Thursday in clashes involving protesters, security forces and government supporters that threatened to derail a planned meeting between Guinea's president and the leader of the opposition.

President Alpha Conde has invited Cellou Dalein Diallo to talks on Friday. An opposition spokesman said this week that Diallo was ready to meet Conde, after rejecting earlier overtures.

But Diallo said Thursday that he had been prevented from leaving his home by security forces posted outside the entrance.

"With what happened, we will need to discuss and see if it is even worth responding to the president's invitation tomorrow," he told a local radio station.

Meanwhile, youths in the capital, Conakry, blocked roads with burning tires and drove back police in some neighborhoods in the latest unrest over the timing of elections.

Residents reported hearing gunfire in the city's Sonfonia neighborhood, and a government statement said two of those hurt had been shot. Two people were arrested, it said.

Witnesses said police fired tear gas in the Bambeto and Cosa neighborhoods to disperse demonstrators.

"Counterprotesters also clashed with the opposition demonstrators, throwing projectiles," one Conakry resident said.

The opposition says a decision announced in March to hold Guinea's presidential election on Oct. 11 broke a 2013 agreement to stage long-delayed local elections first.

Analysts say holding local elections first would give Conde's rivals more influence in organizing the presidential polls.

Deputy government spokesman Moustapha Naite called Thursday's violence "regrettable."

"At a moment when we are holding out our hand, such incidents should not be happening. Nevertheless, the government remains willing to talk to find a solution," he told Reuters.

The demonstrations, which began in mid-April in Conakry and other towns, have left at least five people dead and many more injured, according to opposition leaders, who say security forces have fired live rounds during clashes.