Guinea coup leader invites foreign diplomats for talks

The leader of a military coup in Guinea has invited foreign diplomats to come to the West African nation this weekend for talks in a move intended to reassure the international community, reported dpa.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara said in a statement on national radio late Thursday that the UN, EU, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were amongst those invited for a meeting aimed at clarifying the junta's intentions.

All of these bodies have condemned the coup, which began Tuesday only hours after the death of strongman President Lansana Conte.

The talks are scheduled to take place around midday on Saturday.

The junta's invitation came as government leaders who had turned themselves over to the military pledged their support for the new regime.

Camara had earlier given ministers a deadline of 24 hours to hand themselves in to an army barracks or face being hunted down.

Some 30 ministers have given themselves up, among them Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare, who said the government was at the coup leaders' "complete disposal."

The government had earlier claimed it was still in control and called on the international community to intervene.

Camara declared himself president on Wednesday evening after parading past cheering crowds in the streets of the capital Conakry.

The coup leaders have named a national council made up of 26 military leaders and six civilians to replace the government.

Camara said that he has no interest in holding on to power and would arrange "free, fair and transparent" elections for 2010.

Despite the coup's success, analysts are warning that months of uncertainty lay ahead, saying that without Conte's iron fist to keep the nation in line there could be counter-coups.

Conte took control of Guinea in a bloodless coup in 1984 and kept a tight grip on the nation until his death.

In recent years, however, Conte saw his leadership tested by a military mutiny, anti-government riots and strikes over the rising cost of food and fuel.

The leader was known to suffer from diabetes and was a heavy smoker. His exact birth date is not known, but he was believed to have been 74.

His funeral is due to take place later on Friday in his home village.

Guinea is still largely poverty-stricken despite having the world's largest reserves of bauxite, an ore used to make aluminium, and significant deposits of gold and diamonds.

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