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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 23:19 GMT 00:19 UK
Army chief takes over in Bissau
General Verissimo Correia Seabre has declared himself president of Guinea-Bissau after seizing power in a coup.

The army chief of staff says he will remain leader until elections are organised in the West African state.

Soldiers have announced they are setting up a transitional government to include "all national political orientations".

They are holding President Kumba Yalla in detention, although they have promised to release him later.

As a person, I have nothing against Kumba Yalla... He can stay in Guinea-Bissau as well as leave the country
General Verissimo Correia Seabre
Army Chief of Staff

A curfew was imposed on Sunday night in the capital, Bissau, with soldiers patrolling the streets, but the city is reported to be calm.

All government ministers have been ordered to report to a public building in the capital of the former Portuguese colony.

Election delay

President Yalla dissolved the government last November, promising new elections but they have been postponed four times since.

The coup came at dawn, following an announcement on Saturday that the president would have to cancel them again.

Coup leader General Verissimo Correia Seabre
General Correia Seabre (right) pledged to hold fresh elections
Radio stations broadcast a message from the army saying it had seized power because President Yalla had failed to resolve the country's problems.

"I am going to assume the presidency of the republic until there are elections," General Correia told Portuguese state television.

"As a person, I have nothing against Kumba Yalla," he said. "He can stay in Guinea-Bissau as well as leave the country."

The fate of Prime Minister Mario Pires, who is in the south of the country, was not clear with reports that the army was seeking to detain him.

Portugal condemned the coup and called on the army to allow long-delayed elections to go forward in its former colony.

"The Portuguese Government deplores the military coup d'etat that occurred today in Guinea-Bissau and calls on its perpetrators to immediately re-establish constitutional legality... ," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Shortages

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been beset by food shortages and strikes.

It has never really recovered from an army revolt and then a war in the late 1990s, our correspondent says.

The secretary general of the United Nations said in June that the country was embarking on a downward course.

The Organisation of West African States recently said it was worried, not least by the silencing of political opponents of the president.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Paul Welsh
"The coup leaders have asked people to stay at home during the day"



SEE ALSO:
Capital change for Guinea-Bissau
23 Apr 03  |  Africa
Concern mounts over Bissau poll
14 Mar 03  |  Africa
Guinea Bissau 'coup' foiled
03 Dec 01  |  Africa
Guinea Bissau arrests top judges
15 Nov 01  |  Africa
Country profile: Guinea-Bissau
04 Sep 01  |  Country profiles
Q&A: Guinea-Bissau coup
14 Sep 03  |  Africa


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