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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK

World: Africa

Talks break down in Guinea-Bissau

A former Guinean revolutionary fighter, who says he will fight against the government troops

Talks aimed at securing a ceasefire to end more than three weeks of fighting in Guinea-Bissau have been called off.

Government representatives and rebel soldiers had been due to meet aboard a Portuguese frigate moored off the capital Bissau.

But the Portuguese ambassador to Guinea Bissau, Francisco Henriques da Silva,said the talks would not now take place.

Army chief sacked earlier this month

[ image: President Vieira...sparked war by sacking army chief]
President Vieira...sparked war by sacking army chief
The rebellion began when President Joao Bernardo Vieira sacked his army chief, General Ansumane Mane, earlier this month.

The talks are believed to have been cancelled after the rebel leaders demanded that before negotiations proceed, neighbouring Senegal and Guinea withdrew their troops which have been supporting President Vieira.

The rebels also want a cease-fire and the intervention of neutral soldiers from the former colonial power, Portugal.

[ image: General Ansumane Mane...staged a coup]
General Ansumane Mane...staged a coup
Portuguese radio said the meeting was postponed to allow President Vieira to inform his cabinet of the rebels' position.

Heavy shelling erupted in the northern suburbs of Bissau on Tuesday and lasted for two hours.

Major Gomes Fernandes, the rebels' spokesman, asked Mr da Silva to press President Vieira's government to stop the attacks and he warned: "If one of ours dies, you can be sure we'll retaliate."

General Mane staged a coup attempt against President Vieira earlier this month after being deposed as army chief.

Virtual civil war

Forces loyal to Mr Vieira resisted the coup, which has degenerated into a virtual civil war around the capital.

[ image: The fighting has not helped impoverished Guinea-Bissau]
The fighting has not helped impoverished Guinea-Bissau
Almost all the city's 300,000 inhabitants have fled to the central towns of Mansoa, Bafata and Canchungo.

The World Food Programme says Bafata's population of 160,000 people has doubled, while rice stocks have dwindled with only a few days' supply remaining.

In the countryside many former guerrillas from Guinea-Bissau's 1960s independence war against Portugal have been re-arming and coming out in favour of the uprising.

At the weekend Senegal, which is fighting its own rebellion in the southern province of Casamance, sent additional troops to Bissau to counter the rebels.

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