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Guinea coup chief tightens grip

Other leaders step down under threat from Camara

CONAKRY, Guinea – Guinea’s coup leader solidified his hold over this impoverished West African nation Thursday as the prime minister who served under its late dictator surrendered and stepped down along with dozens of other government leaders.

While some welcomed new military leader Capt. Moussa Camara as a break with the past, others worried he will try to cling to power like the strongman whose death this week touched off the political crisis.

Camara had ordered Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare and other leaders of the government and armed forces to come out of hiding and turn themselves in at a military barracks within 24 hours. If they did not, he threatened to organize a nationwide search.

Souare’s mother, Aissatou, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that her son was no longer prime minister and that he and the other ministers went to the barracks to avoid being hunted down.

Private radio station Liberte FM carried a live broadcast of him telling the coup leader: “We are at your disposal,” in an apparent capitulation. The radio station reported that Camara said the government leaders were then free to leave, but it was not immediately clear where they were.

Later in the day, the head of all armed branches of Guinea’s military turned himself in at the barracks, as did the head of police and the head of customs.

The developments reflected the growing power of the coup leaders who made their move in the hours after the death Monday night of dictator Lansana Conte, who had held power for nearly a quarter century.

Camara has declared himself Guinea’s interim leader and pledged to hold a presidential election in two years.

The European Union urged Guinea to hold “democratic and transparent” elections within the first three months of 2009.

Under Guinea’s constitution, parliament leader Aboubacar Sompare was next in line to be president. His whereabouts were unknown.

Camara promised a “grandiose funeral” for Conte today. He died Monday but there has been no funeral despite Muslim custom calling for burial within 24 hours of death. The body was to be brought to a stadium this morning and to the Grand Mosque before interment.


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