BISSAU (Reuters) - Guinea Bissau's interim leader called elections on Friday that African and Western leaders hope will end decades of instability in a former Portuguese colony that has been become a narcotics trafficking hub to Europe.
President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo said in a decree read over state radio that the country was now ready for delayed legislative and presidential elections after he had consulted with political parties.
"Conditions are ripe for holding safe and secure legislative and presidential elections on November 24," Nhamadjo said.
The elections were due to be held in May, but in March West African leaders prolonged the mandate of the caretaker government until the end of the year to give the interim government more time to prepare.
Guinea Bissau was thrown into turmoil last year when soldiers ousted interim President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior days before a runoff election Gomes Junior was favored to win.
Guinea-Bissau is rich in natural resources, including minerals, cashews, and some of the world's best fishing offshore, but political instability has hindered investment and kept most of its 1.6 million people mired in poverty.
Thin law enforcement and alleged state complicity have allowed South American cartels to use its scores of mangrove-lined islands as a trans-shipment hub for cocaine bound for the markets of Europe for more than a decade.
A U.S. sting operation that targeted the country's military brass and saw the arrest of former navy chief Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto on April 2 sent shockwaves through the tiny nation.
(Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Bate Felix)