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26.12.2008 Guinea

Guinea buries ex-President Conte

Guinea buries ex-President Conte
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Guinea is paying its last respects to the late President Lansana Conte, who ruled the West African state for almost quarter of a century.

His coffin was paraded around Conakry and is now at the parliament building where his body will lie in state.

The leader of a military coup, which was triggered hours after Mr Conte died on Monday, has been reaching out to international leaders.

Capt Moussa Camara will meet diplomats for talks in the capital on Friday.

Presidents from the neighbouring states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast are attending the funeral ceremonies of Mr Conte, who died aged 74.

A service will be held in the country's national stadium before Mr Conte's body is laid to rest in his village of Lansanaya, some 120km (75 miles) north-west of the capital.

Popular move
The new military leaders declared Friday a national holiday to allow people to attend the funeral.

In a statement read on national radio, Capt Camara invited representatives from the UN, G8, European Union and African Union to a meeting this weekend.
Despite condemnation from the international community, the coup appears to have been welcomed by many within the country.

Sick and tired of despotic rule under the former president and his hugely corrupt government, Guineans are pinning their hopes on the military, the BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross says.

The deposed Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare and many within his cabinet have also endorsed Capt Camara's move, as well as older sections of the military.

The rebels also said they would hold separate talks on Saturday with leaders of Guinea's political parties and civil society groups.

Capt Camara, a junior army officer, has declared himself Guinea's new president and head of the junta's new National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD).

On Thursday, he said the new 32-member ruling council replacing the government and other institutions would hold "free, credible and transparent elections" in December 2010, when Mr Conte's presidential term would have ended.

"The council has no ambitions to hold on to power. The only reason is the need to safeguard territorial integrity. That is the only reason. There is no ulterior motive," he said.

Capt Camara also said he had no intention of standing in the elections and that he wanted to restore order to the country and rid it of corruption.

The US embassy in Conakry called for an immediate return to civilian rule in Guinea, saying the junta's announcement that elections would not be held for two years was unacceptable.

France, which currently holds the EU presidency, also said a vote should be held soon.

"The presidency points out the importance of respecting time limits and within the first half of 2009 holding democratic and transparent elections," the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement.

Guinea's two main opposition groups also urged the junta to stage elections in a year's time.

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