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Guinea-Bissau President Opens Talks on New Government

FILE - Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz arrives to speak with journalists after a meeting with Portuguese officials at the presidential palace in Lisbon, June 19, 2014.

Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz opened talks with the country's main political parties Friday to form a new government, after he fired the previous cabinet in a power struggle with the prime minister.

Vaz dismissed Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira on Wednesday in a row caused partly by overlapping duties in Guinea-Bissau's semipresidential system. But the ruling PAIGC party, to which both men belong, said Thursday that it would name Pereira to lead the new government — a move Vaz is expected to block.

The United Nations, which has a mandate to promote peace and strengthen democracy in Guinea-Bissau, says the country is now experiencing a "political crisis."

A former Portuguese colony, Guinea-Bissau has a long history of instability, suffering nine coups or attempted coups since 1980. In recent years it has become a major transit point for cocaine smuggled from South America to Europe.

Pereira, popular with Western donors, helped secure more than 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) in financing at a March conference to help stimulate the economy after a 2014 election.

But Portugal has said political uncertainty could endanger the much-needed assistance.