Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 18:11 UK

France 'suspects Guinea leader'

Guinean soldiers in Conakry (5 October 2009)
Mr Kouchner said many of the soldiers responsible had been "red berets"

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has accused Guinea's military leader of possibly ordering the shooting of protesters last week.

Mr Kouchner said Capt Moussa Dadis Camara was "strongly suspected... to have participated in the decision" to launch the bloody crackdown in Conakry.

Human rights groups say 157 people were killed in the incident, while the government puts the figure at only 57.

Earlier, Capt Camara said Guinea was "not a district of France".

On Sunday, Mr Kouchner had said France, Guinea's former colonial ruler, could no longer work with the captain and called for the international community to intervene.

'Red berets'

Mr Kouchner's latest comments on Capt Camara's government came after he was asked about the crackdown by the French parliament's foreign affairs committee.

"The least we can say is that we strongly suspect the interim president to have... taken part in the decision," he said.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara (5 October 2009)
Seized power in December 2008 as a little known army captain
Promised democracy, but now shows signs of holding on to power
Increasingly erratic behaviour and public humiliation of officials

Human rights groups and witnesses say Guinean soldiers fired on an unarmed crowd that gathered inside a stadium in Conakry to protest against the government. They also say many women demonstrators were raped.

Capt Camara, who came to power in a military coup last year, insists he was not responsible for his troops' actions.

"Was Captain Dadis responsible or not for this savage intervention by the Guinean army in the stadium where the opposition was protesting?" Mr Kouchner asked.

"It's hard to say, because obviously he and everyone else denies it.

"Nevertheless, it was red berets, the forces that surround the leader of the coup d'etat," he said, noting that the captain still lived "in the military camp and not in the presidential palace".

Mr Kouchner said many of the soldiers responsible were "Foresters" - residents of the Guinee Forestiere region of south-eastern Guinea - and that he had heard they were "recently reinforced by Liberian troops, former mercenaries".

Last week, an opposition leader said some of the troops had been former members of the Liberian paramilitary group, the United Liberation Movement. Liberia is investigating the allegation.

The French foreign minister's comments came amid a wave of international condemnation about the crackdown.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier said Washington was appalled and outraged by the violence and intended "to pursue appropriate actions" against Guinea's military rulers.

The opposition coalition in Guinea meanwhile said it would not participate in talks to resolve the political crisis unless Capt Camara stepped down. He has indicated that he may run in January's elections, having initially ruled himself out.

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