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Regional envoys meet Guinean junta to urge return to civilian rule

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By Reuters
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By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY -A delegation from West Africa’s main political and economic bloc on Friday met the junta that ousted Guinean president Alpha Conde, in the hope of steering the country back towards a civilian-led, constitutional regime.

West Africa’s third putsch since April has intensified fears of a slide back towards military rule in the region, which had been starting to shed its “coup-belt” reputation.

Regional leaders suspended Guinea from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc on Wednesday, but stopped short of imposing further sanctions.

The African Union backed ECOWAS up on Friday by suspended Guinea from all AU activities and decision-making bodies.

The ECOWAS delegation, led by Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway and Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Alpha Barry, met with junta officials in a hotel in the capital, Conakry.

They planned to press the junta to appoint a credible civilian prime minister as soon as possible to help guide Guinea back towards constitutional order, a high-ranking regional official told Reuters on Thursday.

The junta is led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, a former officer in the French Foreign Legion. It has appointed army officers to head regional administrations, and on Thursday ordered the central bank and other banks to freeze all government accounts, in order to secure state assets.

Doumbouya and the other special forces soldiers behind Sunday’s coup said they had ousted Conde because of concerns about poverty and endemic corruption.

The putsch has been condemned by partners including the United States, which on Thursday denied involvement after a video emerged of U.S. soldiers in a crowd of jubilant Guineans as the coup unfolded on Sunday.

The U.S. State Department said a small U.S. team had been involved in a joint military training exercise outside Conakry.

“Given the changing security situation, it was decided that the team would be relocated to the U.S. Embassy in Conakry. Guinean security forces provided an escort to Conakry to ensure the safe passage of the team,” the Department said.