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Burkinabe President Mediates Guinea Crisis

By Scott Stearns
05 October 2009

The President of Burkina Faso is in Guinea for talks with military leaders and their political opponents as part of a regional mediation effort following last week's killing of at least 157 demonstrators.

Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore is in Conakry for talks with military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and his political opponents as a facilitator for the Economic Community of West African States.

The regional alliance is hoping to ease political tensions in Guinea after last week's killing of at least 157 protesters demonstrating against Captain Camara's expected candidacy in presidential elections scheduled for January.

Human rights groups say security forces opened fire on protesters at Conakry's main sports stadium. Guinea's military government says 57 people were killed, most in the crush of protesters fleeing the stadium.

Captain Camara is denying any responsibility for that violence, saying he was not present at the stadium. He is blaming his political opponents for holding an illegal rally, saying they should have known that Guinea's military has what he calls "uncontrollable elements."

Captain Camara is now offering to form a government of national unity with political parties to oversee the transition to elections. But most politicians have rejected that offer, saying the military's violent repression of dissent makes internal dialogue impossible.

Former colonial power France says it is no longer willing to work with Captain Camara after what it calls such "terrible and savage" violence.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told French television that the Sarkozy administration is working for an international intervention in Guinea because Paris can no longer work with Captain Camara.

Kouchner says France is consulting with Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua, who is the current chair of the ECOWAS alliance that sent Burkinabe President Compaore to Conakry.

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