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Guinea coup leaders name council

Guinean troops (January 2007)
Analysts had predicted an attempted military coup after Mr Conte died

Coup leaders in Guinea trying to seize power following President Lansana Conte's death have named a 32-member national council to run the country.

The coup leader, Captain Mussa Dadis Camara, heads the list of council members, which includes six civilians.

Earlier Captain Camara went on state radio to say the government and other institutions had been dissolved.

But Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare denied this and said the government "continues to function".

Most of the people named as being members of the National Council for Democracy and Development are senior military officers.

They include Lieutenant Colonel Sekouba Konate, who heads an elite army unit.

In its takeover announcement, the plotters said elections would be held within 60 days and an interim president and prime minister would be appointed, according to the Associated Press news agency.

But the situation remains unclear. Earlier Guinea's armed forces chief, Gen Diarra Camara, told French TV station France 24 that the coup leaders did not represent most troops.

"I think they are in the minority. They are not the majority in the army," he said.

National Assembly Speaker Aboubacar Sompare, who - according to Guinea's constitution - should be in charge of the country until an election is held within 60 days, also said he did not think the entire military backed the putsch plot.

But a military source told the BBC's Alhassan Sillah that only a small minority of soldiers were opposing a military takeover.

Coup leaders were trying to win over these loyalists at a meeting at the Alpha Yaya Diallo military base in the capital, Conakry, the source said.

The BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross says a power struggle in the army could be extremely dangerous given the country's ethnic divisions.

'Long illness'

On Tuesday, soldiers supporting the coup, and backed by tanks, appeared on the streets of Conakry.

map

President Conte, who ruled the West African country with an iron fist for 24 years, died on Monday night after a "long illness", it was announced in the early hours of Tuesday.

The cause of his death is unknown, but Mr Conte, 74, was a chain-smoker and diabetic who is also believed to have suffered from leukaemia. Forty days of national mourning have been declared.

Guinea's neighbours - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast - are enjoying relative stability after years of conflict and there are fears any unrest there could spread and embroil the sub-region in fighting once more.

But just hours after the the president's death was announced, a junior officer went on state radio to say the army had taken over, and a body called the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) had been set up.

Lansana Conte in 1984
Lansana Conte seized power in 1984 and won three controversial elections

"As of today, the constitution is suspended," said Capt Moussa Dadis Camara. "The government and the institutions of the republic have been dissolved."

Capt Camara, who is head of the army's fuel supplies unit, said the Council would root out corruption and organise fair elections.

Ministers were later ordered to present themselves at the Alpha Yaya Diallo military base "to guarantee their security", while civilians were told to stay indoors and refrain from looting.

The African Union, European Union and United States led condemnation of the move.

"This seizure of power constitutes a flagrant violation of the Guinean constitution," African Union commission chief Jean Ping said in a statement.

Mr Ping called for an urgent meeting of the 53-member bloc.

Relying on military

Former colonial power France - in its capacity as the current holder of the European Union's rotating six-month presidency - said it would oppose any attempted putsch in Guinea.

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We need a change, change that will benefit all Guineans. We pray for a good leader
Amara, Nzerekore

Washington called for a "peaceful and democratic transition" in Guinea.

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah said soldiers have set up check-points along the main roads into the centre of Conakry, but so far there have been no reports of them being heavy-handed.

Vehicles are checked briefly and waved through, he says.

The BBC's Will Ross says many analysts had predicted the army would try to take over following Mr Conte's death because he had been increasingly relying on it to shore up his oppressive rule.

Women walk through Conakry (2007)
Despite Guinea's mineral wealth, it is one of West Africa's poorest nations

General Conte came to power in 1984 at the head of a military coup to fill the vacuum left by the sudden death of his predecessor, Sekou Toure, who had been president since independence from France in 1958.

He eventually oversaw a return to civilian rule and was elected three times, although critics said the votes were never free or fair.

Although Guinea's mineral wealth makes it potentially one of Africa's richest countries, its population of about 10 million is among the poorest in the region.

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