LISBON (Reuters) - Guinea Bissau's former prime minister and presidential frontrunner Carlos Gomes Junior said on Wednesday he hoped to return to run the African country once democracy was restored after an April 12 military coup.
Speaking in Lisbon, where he had travelled to consult representatives of the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries (CPLP), Gomes Junior said he had the legal authority to make such a return realistic.
"I am the president of the largest party legitimately elected to Congress, I am the lawfully elected prime minister and I think that we have the legitimacy to continue ruling the country," he told reporters.
The coup cut short a two-round presidential election widely expected to be won by Gomes Junior, who was briefly arrested by the country's military junta before being released and exiled to Ivory Coast. He said he was treated "with dignity" while under arrest.
About a hundred immigrants from Guinea Bissau rallied to support Gomes Junior and Raimundo Pereira, the deposed interim president, who also travelled to the capital of Bissau's former colonial master Portugal.
Gomes Junior said he did not recognize the government of Rui Duarte de Barros - he was named prime minister earlier on Wednesday after his appointment was supported by those parties who have signed up to an agreement for a gradual transition back to civilian power.
Gomes Junior's PAIGC party did not sign the pact.
"PAIGC does not enter into illicit agreements. We demand a return to democratic legality," he said.
Asked about a decision by West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS to support the transitional government and deploy troops to Guinea Bissau to oversee military reform, Gomes Junior said the matter should be discussed at the level of the United Nations.
"International organizations, the U.N., CPLP, the African Union, (and) ECOWAS have to discuss this in the U.N. framework to find consensus for a peaceful and lawful solution ... We have our means of complaining so that our rights are not infringed."
PAIGC had already denounced the decision, accusing ECOWAS of giving legitimacy to the coup leaders.
When asked whether he planned to stay in Portugal, Gomes Junior said: "Why stay in Portugal? We are going to struggle. We are awaiting elections."
(Reporting By Andrei Khalip; Additional reporting by Alberto Dabo in Bissau; Editing by Andrew Osborn)