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Saturday, 6 January, 2001, 01:23 GMT
Guinea head blames neighbours
Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea
Hundreds of thousands have fled fighting
Guinea's president has accused a "syndicate of African leaders" of supporting armed incursions into his country from neighbouring states.

In an address broadcast by state radio and television, President Lansana Conte said that neighbouring leaders had been attracted by his country's mineral wealth.

There is a syndicate of African leaders who are at the base of these rebel attacks along our borders

President Lansana Conte
He named President Charles Taylor of Liberia and Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso, but said others were also involved.

President Taylor has rejected similar allegations in the past, and in turn has accused Guinea of backing armed dissidents in northern Liberia and harbouring members of Liberia's Ulimo movement.

Amid the continuing instability along Guinea's borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone, President Conte has dismissed the civilian Dorank Assifat Diasseny from his former position of national defence minister.

No replacement has been chosen, but local media reports say that Mr Diasseny has been appointed as a "minister-special adviser at the presidency", a specially-created post.

No reason was given for the move but political analysts in Conakry say President Conte, an army general who took power in a 1984 coup, may have removed his minister because he wanted to take personal charge of the battle against the insurgents.

Deadly clashes

Since early September, deadly clashes between Guinea's armed forces and unidentified bands of armed rebels have ensued in southern Guinea, along the nation's border with Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Hundreds of civilians in southern Guinea have been killed in the clashes, and tens of thousands more have fled the violence, many deep into the Guinean forests.

Among those thought to have been displaced are many of the estimated 460,000 refugees from neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, sheltered by Guinea.

"There is a syndicate of African leaders who are at the base of these rebel attacks along our borders," President Conte said.

He denied harbouring Liberian rebels, saying: "For the time being they are only refugees. If there are people amongst them who do not like Mr Taylor, that is not my fault. Let him take them back, they're Liberians."

President Taylor
Charles Taylor denies causing trouble in Guinea

The president accused neighbouring countries of seeking to exploit Guinea's natural resources, which include gold, diamonds and bauxite.

Liberian President Charles Taylor denies the charge vociferously but a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions aganst Liberia has been circulating in New York and may be tabled soon.

Meanwhile, Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim is visiting the Guinean capital, Conakry, as part of a tour aimed at persuading regional leaders to stop backing rebels opposed to neighbouring governments.

Mr Salim is due to meet some of the refugees from the conflict.

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See also:

05 Jan 01 | Africa
Guinea defence minister sacked
05 Jan 01 | Africa
Concern over Liberia sanctions
28 Dec 00 | Africa
Troops to police Guinea borders
27 Dec 00 | Africa
Sierra Leone: A tumultuous year
26 Dec 00 | Africa
Famine warning in Guinea
20 Dec 00 | Africa
UN finds 'lost' refugees
23 Oct 00 | Africa
Civil war fears in Guinea
15 Sep 00 | Africa
Guinea: Crisis long in the making
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