US, France press Guinea junta on future


Top US and French diplomats have met members of Guinea’s ruling junta in Morocco in hopes of speeding a return to democracy in the troubled West African nation, the US State Department said.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and his French counterpart met in Morocco with a group led by Defence Minister Sekouba Konate, who assumed interim control over Guinea after military ruler Moussa Dadis Camara was severely wounded in a failed assassination bid on Dec. 3.

Camara remains hospitalized in Morocco and his health status is uncertain.

State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said the meeting conveyed “our ideas on how to seek a peaceful resolution to the political situation in Guinea,” including moving toward a civilian-led transitional government and eventual free and fair elections.

Asked if progress was more likely if Camara remained outside the country, Crowley answered, “Yes.”

Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the meeting in Rabat made progress.

US officials say Konate may be amenable to moves to resolve the crisis in Guinea, the world’s largest producer of aluminum ore bauxite and considered a linchpin of stability in a region recovering from three civil wars.

Camara took power in a bloodless coup in December 2008. He drew broad international condemnation and sanctions after gunmen killed and raped scores of people protesting against his rule on Sept. 28.

Crowley said Carson did not meet Camara, who has been in a Rabat hospital after being shot in the head in the assassination bid. Junta officials have said Camara’s condition is not severe. Other sources say his situation is grave.

The United States and France have been leading international critics of the ruling junta in Guinea, a former French colony.

Opposition parties, trade unions and the international community all have called for elections to be organized. A senior US administration official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington was stepping up pressure.
“Clearly the junta leadership has to make way for a different kind of leadership,” this official said, adding that the latest events may have made this more likely.
“I’m not sure we’re telling them how to do it although we’d be happy to work with them if that would be helpful. At this point, we’re just trying to get their commitment to a transition to a civilian government,” he said.