Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Sao Tome coup leaders to meet group of mediators


A diplomatic solution to the crisis sparked by the military coup on Sao Tome and Principe appeared to be inching closer yesterday, as coup leaders were set to meet a group of international mediators in the poor but oil-rich west African archipelago.

A diplomatic source late Saturday quoted coup leader Major Fernando Pereira as saying the meeting at the UN offices was "not to negotiate" but to put forward the putschists' demands and to present the members of the junta.

The representatives of Gabon, Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Nigeria, the US, France and Cape Verde met with 10 leaders of the putsch late Saturday and "discussed methods of work, where the delegation was going and how to start negotiations," a diplomat said.

The delegates visited detainees who complained about their living conditions, the source said.

A five-person Nigerian delegation arrived late Saturday in Sao Tome, where they were met by the ambassadors of Portugal and the US to the former Portuguese colony.

They were followed by a second delegation including the Gabonese foreign minister, the Angolan interior minister and ambassadors from Brazil and Mozambique.

The mediating mission had earlier been scheduled to meet Gabonese President Omar Bongo in Libreville.

The attempt at mediation comes after the leader of the junta, Major Fernando Pereira, agreed Friday to hold talks with the international mediators, and hinted at a possible return to power of the ousted President Fradique de Menezes.

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