CONAKRY Guinea's government and opposition parties reached a deal on Wednesday to hold long-delayed legislative elections at the end of September to complete the mineral-rich nation's transition to civilian rule.
Elections scheduled for June 30 were postponed after a wave of protests, with the opposition accusing President Alpha Conde of planning to rig the poll. Conde won a 2010 election in Guinea's first democratic transition of power, but his victory was contested by the opposition.
"We have reached an agreement," Mouctar Diallo, one of the opposition's leaders, told Reuters. "I hope the international community will guarantee the implementation of this deal."
Political instability following a 2008 military coup deterred some investors from Guinea despite its large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold and other minerals.
The election, originally due to take place in 2011, is essential to unlock nearly 200 million euros of European Union funding.
Wednesday's agreement means elections should be held within 83 days. With Guinean electoral law specifying voting must take place on a Sunday, this would make the date of the election September 29, Diallo said.
The U.N.-mediated talks were aimed at securing the participation of the opposition after some 50 people were killed and about 300 wounded during protests in the past three months.
"This agreement allows progress towards projects in the interest of the country," U.N. special envoy Said Djinnit told delegates at the talks. "Despite your differences, you are in agreement on the essential."
Under the terms of the agreement, South African company Waymark, which the opposition had accused of favouring Conde, will keep its contract for compiling the voter register. Waymark has denied any bias.
Neither Waymark nor its local partner Sabari will compile the election results, which will be counted by hand, the deal specified. For the 2015 presidential election, a public tender will be launched to find a technical operator.
The government conceded to demands that Guineans overseas - a group regarded as largely favouring the opposition - should be allowed to vote.
A committee composed of representatives of the opposition and the government will be put in place to oversee the activities of the national electoral committee (CENI).
(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Robin Pomeroy)
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