Guinea opposition abandons vote talks, threatens protests

CONAKRY Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:03pm GMT

Guinea's President Alpha Conde arrives for a meeting with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh May 25, 2012. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Guinea's President Alpha Conde arrives for a meeting with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh May 25, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Samrang Pring

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CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea's opposition leaders on Tuesday abandoned talks with the government and threatened to resume street protests, accusing the president's camp of disrespecting the terms of a planned dialogue over election preparations.

Earlier this month, opposition leaders accepted to take part in talks with the government following two weeks of sporadic protest that killed eight and wounded hundreds more in the world's top bauxite-producing nation.

President Alpha Conde's political foes organised the marches to protest against what it said was his attempts to rig legislative elections scheduled for May 12.

"We have decided to quit the negotiating table because the government has not respected its promises to us," spokesman for the opposition Aboubacar Sylla told Reuters.

Sylla said that the government had added political groups that should not be part of the dialogue and an extra mediator, throwing the process into disarray.

He said that the opposition was ready to return to the negotiating table if authorities respected the terms of the dialogue.

The government had also promised to suspend the activities of the national electoral commission CENI until the dialogue was concluded and to free some 90 opposition militants arrested after the demonstrations.

Alassane Conde, Guinea's minister for territorial administration, told local radio he was surprised by the opposition's reaction.

"The government has made a lot of concessions to the opposition who has not given any ground. They asked for the international mediator," Conde said.

Sylla said the opposition may call fresh protests.

"This unfortunately will be the case if the government continue to obstruct attempts to make the electoral process transparent," Sylla said.

The legislative election is meant to be the last step in a drawn-out transition to civilian rule after a coup in late 2008 was followed by two bloody years with the army in charge.

The political uncertainty has led to billions of dollars in mining investments being put on ice and hit Guinea's growth last year, with the mining-dependent economy registering 3.9 percent, 1 percentage point lower than forecast.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing Bate Felix; Editing by David Lewis and Michael Roddy)

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