Tue, Apr 17, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Accord sought in Guinea-Bissau

AP, BISSAU

Vice Chief of the Armed Forces Mamadu Nkruma, left, and Chief of Staff of the Army Augusto Mario Co, right, wait for the start of talks in Bissau on Sunday

Photo: EPA

Political parties met with Guinea-Bissau’s military junta on Sunday in an attempt to reach a political solution days after soldiers arrested the prime minister in the tiny West African nation.

Opposition coalition spokesman Fernando Vaz said the military group met with political parties for the third day in an attempt to reach an agreement before a military contingent from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc was to arrive yesterday.

Another political party spokesman who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter said most parties do not want to be associated with what is widely seen as a coup in the nation known for transiting cocaine to Europe.

Vaz said the parties are inviting the party of the detained prime minister to join talks, but it is not clear if the party would accept. Bissau-Guinean Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr was the frontrunner in a presidential poll scheduled for Sunday next week.

Vaz said the group was considering two proposals. One is a constitutional solution, but one that would exclude Gomes. The other would be “to opt for a radical change,” he said, without giving details.

Gomes was unpopular with soldiers because of his efforts to reform the military by downsizing the bloated, top-heavy army, strengthening the police and fighting the cocaine-trafficking business in which some senior officers and politicians are believed embroiled.

The junta said Bissau--Guinean interim President Raimundo Pereira and army chief Antonio Indjai were also arrested along with Gomes. The group issued a communique on Saturday saying Pereira, Gomes and Indjai “are safe,” without giving further details. This led to speculation that the soldiers had deposed the head of the army, but a military spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied he had been detained.

On Thursday, unidentified soldiers calling themselves “the military commando” attacked Gomes’ home with rocket-propelled grenades and detained him, ensuring he joins the ranks of all the other leaders who never have finished a term of office in the country’s nearly 40 years of independence. Other government leaders are in hiding.

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