Guinea

Guinea force needed after leader shot - ECOWAS

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- ECOWAS commission wants regional force in Guinea

- Force needed to protect civilians, stop crisis spreading

- Hopes for breakthrough at Ouagadougou talks

By Mathieu Bonkoungou

OUAGADOUGOU, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Guinea, whose military leader was the target of a botched assassination attempt last week, needs a West African protection force urgently, an official of a regional bloc said on Sunday.

"A deep crisis in Guinea risks not just destabilising the country in the long term but could also compromise all our post-conflict peace efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast," Mohamed Ibn Chambas, president of the ECOWAS commission which coordinates the regional bloc's activities, said.

He spoke in Burkina Faso where Guinea's military junta and civilian opposition are holding talks with mediators, a week after the top bauxite exporter's leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, was shot in a botched assassination attempt by his own soldiers.

Camara was evacuated to Morocco, where he is recovering from surgery on gunshot wounds to his head. His deputy has taken charge of the country but the rogue soldiers are still being tracked and there are fears of ethnic violence. [ID: nLDE5BC06B]

"Because of the threat ... I propose that we suggest to our superiors the preventative deployment of a humanitarian and civilian protection force that will help restore a climate of security for Guineans," Chambas said at the talk's opening.

Chambas warned that "all the ingredients were in place for an explosive situation".

The region's conflicts have long been intertwined and four of Guinea's neighbours, which endured war or politically-linked violence over the last decade, remain fragile as they seek to consolidate their own peace process.

The junta seized power in a coup last December and initially won over some of the population with promises of reforms. But divisions within the country, and the military, have deepened as Camara back-tracked on vows to hold polls and restore democracy.

Pressure on the junta to step down has intensified since a Sept. 28 security crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners that human rights organisations say killed over 150 people.

United Nations investigators visited Guinea to probe the killings and Chambas warned the junta on Sunday that human rights violations would not go unpunished.

Some analysts say that the temporary replacement of the increasingly erratic Camara with his No. 2, Defence Minister Sekouba Konate, could increase chances of a breakthrough as he is a respected soldier who has mostly abstained from politics.

Guinea's civilian opposition has refused to accept anything but the military's departure from power.

But Sidya Toure, a member of the opposition "Force Vives" team at the talks, said the meeting offered "a new chance for Guineans to breath and, maybe, escape from a crisis that has dragged on too long".

(Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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