- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2008

CONAKRY, Guinea | Guinea’s coup leader solidified his hold over this impoverished West African nation Thursday as the prime minister who served under the 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.

Capt. Camara had ordered Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare and other leaders of Guinea’s 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 for them.

Mr. Souare’s mother, Aissatou, said 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.” The radio station reported that Capt. 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, Gen. Camara Diarra, turned himself in at the barracks, as did the head of police and the head of customs.

Mr. Souare had not been seen in public since Capt. Camara’s group of junior officers declared a coup Tuesday, though he had claimed a day later to be still in control. Mr. Souare served under Lansana Conte, the country’s longtime dictator who died Monday after nearly a quarter-century in power.

Capt. 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. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office said France is “extremely worried” about the situation in Guinea.

In radio broadcasts Thursday, Capt. Camara said he had no intention of being a candidate in the December 2010 vote but that his group wants to re-establish order and crack down on corruption.

“I want to warn anyone who thinks they can try to corrupt me or my agents. Money is of no interest to us,” Capt. Camara said.

Under Guinea’s constitution, parliament leader Aboubacar Sompare was next in line to be president. Mr. Sompare’s whereabouts on Thursday were not known.

Until Mr. Conte’s death, Guinea had been ruled by only two people since its 1958 independence from France. Mr. Conte took power in a 1984 military coup after his predecessor’s death, embarking on more than two decades of stern-handed, dictatorial rule.

Capt. Camara promised a “grandiose funeral” for Mr. Conte on Friday. He died Monday but there has been no funeral despite Muslim custom calling for burial within 24 hours of death.

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