Thu, Jan 01, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Guinea coup leader names civilian PM

AP , CONAKRY

Coup leaders in Guinea named a civilian banker as prime minister, making good on a key promise a week after seizing power upon the death of the country’s dictator.

Their choice, Kabine Komara, is a director of the African Export-Import Bank in Cairo, a 14-year-old institution that promotes trade between African states. His selection on Tuesday raised hopes the military junta could also honor other commitments, including holding elections and cracking down on corruption.

This West African country has an abundance of gold, diamonds, iron, timber and half the world’s reserves of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum. But for the past 24 years, Guinea’s treasury has been pillaged by officials loyal to the late president Lansana Conte and its people have fallen deeper and deeper into poverty.

Coup leader Captain Moussa Camara’s troops have held raids over the last two days to reclaim government property allegedly stolen by Conte’s inner clique. The young and charismatic coup leader has won overwhelming public approval by promising to punish those who stole from the state.

But his welcome by the international community has been less than warm.

The EU on Tuesday reiterated its condemnation of the coup, urging the junta to hand over executive power to an interim civilian government that will organize elections. The African Union froze Guinea’s membership in the continent-wide bloc, threatening further sanctions if the junta does not restore constitutional order.

Camara invited foreign diplomats and UN representatives to the presidential compound to hear his views on Tuesday, but became visibly annoyed when a European ambassador asked him if he can guarantee that no junta members will appear on the presidential ballot he proposes to hold in two years.

“I am a military man — and I don’t know how to lie,” he said. “In the history of coup d’etats, for the first time there was no massacre and the members of the former government were not put in handcuffs and humiliated ... why are you, the European Union, condemning us?”

The junta, which is working hard to win over key regional players, sent a top envoy to meet earlier on Tuesday with the president of neighboring Guinea-Bissau. Delegations were also being sent to other neighbors, including Sierra Leone, where Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi started a state visit on Tuesday.

Komara was traveling on Tuesday to Guinea and not available to comment on his selection, the bank said.

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