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Saturday, October 17, 2009

African Union piles pressure on junta as deadline looms

AFP- Guinea's military junta is under growing pressure to withdraw from planned January elections ahead of a Saturday deadline set by the African Union.

Leaders from West African countries gather in the Nigerian capital Saturday for an emergency summit on crises in Guinea and Niger amid mounting international pressure on the military junta in Guinea.

Pressure has been piling up on the junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara who seized power last December shortly after the death of longtime strongman Lansana Conte.

Last month's deadly crackdown on an opposition demonstration and Camara's intention to stand for elections despite his earlier pledge that he would stay out of the January presidential race, have raised tensions and infuriated the international community.

With three months to the vote and warnings the security situation is deteriorating in Guinea, the 15-country Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) is under pressure to adopt a tough position against the regime and prevent the country sliding into further turmoil.

Nigeria, which holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, has hinted that sanctions are most likely to be slapped against the regime.

The United Nations on Friday said it would launch an investigation into the September 28 massacre of opposition activists in which 157 people died and over a thousand injured and women raped.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague is also investigating the football stadium rally mass killings.

The Camara-led junta already faces a Saturday ultimatum from the African Union to rule themselves out of the upcoming vote.

International, regional and opposition groups want the junta to step aside to allow for free and credible elections in the world's top bauxite exporter.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, ECOWAS' chosen facilitator on easing the crisis in Guinea, will outline to peers his proposals for a speedy resolution of the crisis in the resource-rich west African country.

"The President will in Nigeria ... explain to his west African counterparts proposals for a quick solution to the crisis in Guinea," one of Compaore's advisers told AFP in Ouagadougou.

The International Crisis Group think tank warned: "If military rule in Guinea is not rapidly ended, there is a serious risk the country will slide into a civil war that could destabilise all West Africa".

But a junta spokesman, speaking in Ouagadougou Friday, brushed off reports of mounting tensions in the country.

"Guinea is doing well, we experience more external than internal pressure," Idrissa Cherif, a special envoy for Camara, told Burkina Faso national television.

The leaders will also discuss Niger where President Mamadou Tandja defied domestic and international protests against his bid to cling onto power beyond the then legal limit of two terms.

Following the August constitutional referendum which saw him extend his grip on power, Tandja is due to hold legislative elections on Tuesday. The opposition is boycotting the vote and anti-vote demonstrations are planned for Saturday.

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