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Guinean junta warns mining sector

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara (in red beret) arrives at meeting alongside Bishop Vincent Colibaly
Capt Camara (R) came to the meeting alongside Bishop Vincent Colibaly

The leader of Guinea's coup has said contracts for the country's vital mining industry will be reviewed and pledged to stamp out corruption.

Without naming firms, Capt Moussa Dadis Camara told a public meeting in Conakry that any contracts found to be "defective" would be revised.

Capt Camara took power after the death of President Lansana Conte on Monday.

A meeting between the junta and foreign envoys planned for Saturday has been postponed until next week.

The junta, which took over in a bloodless coup, has said it wishes to "reassure the international community" of its commitment to stamping out corruption and holding elections in 2010.

Its seizure of power was condemned internationally but Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has urged the world community to recognise the new leadership.

'No more looting'

Capt Camara addressed hundreds of public representatives, including trade unionists, politicians and clergy, at a meeting in his barracks, Camp Alpha Yaya Diallo, in what correspondents say was a charm offensive.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. Photo: 26 December 2008
This group of military men deserves support - we should not throw stones at them
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade

He outlined his view of the mining sector, which has attracted billions of dollars in investment from international firms.

"We have blocked the mining sector," he said. "There will be a renegotiation of contracts."

According to AFP news agency, he also suspended all gold extraction until further notice.

More than a third of the world's bauxite reserves are located in Guinea which also has large reserves of gold, diamonds, iron and nickel, and some uranium deposits.

Without naming names, Capt Camara vowed to eradicate corruption, saying: "It was the government officials who surrounded the [late] head of state who looted the country."

"Anyone found guilty of corruption will be punished," he added. "Anyone who has misappropriated state assets for his benefit, if caught, will be judged and punished before the people."

He also told those present that he was open to their "best ideas", including the choice of a new prime minister.

Meeting postponed

The coup leaders had been due to meet representatives from the UN, G8, European Union and African Union at 1200 GMT on Saturday but they postponed the meeting until Tuesday without explanation.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The international powers should keep talking to the military to restore Guinea to civilian rule.
Abraham Walker, New Jersey, USA

The US embassy in Conakry has called for an immediate return to civilian rule in Guinea, while France, which currently holds the EU presidency, also said a vote should be held soon.

South Africa's President Kgalema Motlanthe has said the junta must step down and hold elections immediately.

President Wade, however, publicly backed the coup, telling French radio: "My feeling is that this group of military men deserves support. We should not throw stones at them."

The coup appears to have been welcomed by many within the country, the BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross says.

Sick and tired of despotic rule under the former president and his hugely corrupt government, Guineans are pinning their hopes on the military, our correspondent says.

On Friday, tens of thousands of Guineans and presidents from the neighbouring states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast attended the funeral of President Conte in Conakry.

Conte, who died aged 74, was later buried in front of his mansion in the village of Lansanaya, some 120km (75 miles) north-west of the capital.



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