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Sunday, February 21, 1999 Published at 07:03 GMT

World: Africa

Guinea-Bissau gets unity government

At least 100 civilians died in renewed fighting last month

An interim government of national unity has been sworn into office in Guinea-Bissau under the terms of a peace accord signed last November.

The new 10-member government - which includes representatives of President Joao Vieira and rebel soldiers who mutinied last year - will lead the West African nation until elections later this year.

The Prime Minister, Francisco Fadul, told French radio that the elections would probably be delayed from March when they were scheduled under the peace agreement, to allow time to conduct a new census of voters and for refugees to return to Guinea-Bissau.

[ image: President Vieira has been backed by Senegalese troops]
President Vieira has been backed by Senegalese troops
The peace deal halted a five-month war between the rebels, who have broad popular support, and the mostly Senegalese troops supporting President Vieira who has ruled the former Portuguese colony since 1980.

Fighting flared again earlier this month, killing at least 100 people in four days before Togolese mediators secured a truce.

About 600 peacekeepers from Ecomog, the defence arm of the Economic Community of West African States, have arrived in the country. More than 1,000 troops from neighbouring Senegal are reported to be still in Guinea-Bissau.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says it has started distributing food aid in Guinea-Bissau, to help alleviate food shortages.

The nation of 1.1 million people is among the world's 15 poorest nations.

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