CONAKRY (Reuters) - At least two people were wounded in Guinea's capital Conakry on Monday in clashes between security forces and opposition protesters demanding fresh local elections before a presidential vote, the government said.
The government deployed several hundred police and gendarmes across the capital early in the morning in anticipation of the protests. At least three people have been killed and 50 injured in the protests which began last week.
Guinea's opposition parties are trying to pressure the government to hold local elections before the presidential vote, set for October, in line with a 2013 agreement between the country's rival political factions.
Analysts say that holding local elections first would give President Alpha Conde's rivals more influence in organizing the presidential election. The government denies that delaying local polls will have any impact on free and fair elections.
As early as 0300 GMT (11 p.m. EDT) on Monday, some opposition supporters erected barricades and burnt tyres on several routes across Guinea's seaside capital, while some youths fought street battles with the police.
"People are running all over the place. I overheard two gunshots," said Aissata Barry in Conakry's Hamdallaye neighborhood.
The government said in a statement that several people had been arrested but denied it fired shots at protesters.
"The orders were firm: police and gendarmes were given only conventional weapons for maintaining order," gendarme commander Mamadou Alpha Barry told Reuters.
Guinea government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said the protests were unlawful and could jeopardize efforts to curb the Ebola outbreak that began in the country last year and has killed over 10,000 people in the region.
Camara said the government was open to negotiate with the opposition. A government delegation comprising several ministers met the leader of the opposition Cellou Dalein Diallo on Sunday.
However, Diallo said the government did not seem ready for a sincere dialogue.
"If they want us to go to inclusive and peaceful elections, there is no reason why they accept an election calendar that violates the laws of the republic," he said.
Guinea is rich in mineral deposits including gold, diamond, bauxite and iron ore but long-running political turmoil has hampered its ability to develop them.
(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Dominic Evans)