Guinean opposition suspends protest for U.N.-led talks

Reuters News
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Posted: May 08, 2013 5:53 PM

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea opposition leaders have suspended protests planned for Thursday to allow United Nations-mediated talks intended to end a violent impasse over the organization of delayed legislative elections.

At least 20 people have been killed, several by gunshots, and more than 300 others wounded in clashes since March between opposition supporters, security forces and President Alpha Conde's backers in the world's top bauxite producer.

Opposition parties, which have organized weekly protests, have accused Conde, who took office in 2010 following Guinea's first democratic transfer of power since 1958, of trying to rig the polls.

"We have decided to postpone our protest to enable the United Nations to take over the process and give dialogue a chance," said Sidya Toure, Guinea's former prime minister who is now one of the opposition leaders.

"We are giving Said Djinnit (U.N. special representative in the region), one week for the mediation. We are showing good faith," Sidya told Reuters on Wednesday.

The opposition, which says Conde did not consult them before announcing a poll date, has called on its supporters to protest until the president backs down and calls off the June 30 poll.

The opposition also has demanded that South African firm Waymark be stripped of a contract to revise the voter list and that the mostly opposition-aligned Guinean diaspora be allowed to vote.

The government has rejected the opposition demands.

Failure to agree on the organization of the poll has stirred up ethnic violence and jeopardized economic gains made since Conde came to power.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Michael Roddy)