Opposition to resume dialogue with government

Seven of Guinea's opposition political parties on Monday said they would resume dialogue with the government following a meeting in which the government agreed to look into their grievances including lack of access to state radio and television.

However, one party, the Union of the Progress of Guinea (UPR) of Siradiou Diallo, continued the boycott started by parties group under the Republic Front for Democratic Change (FRAD), in July.

Interior Minister Moussa Solano had initiated the dialogue to level the political ground in the country, ahead of presidential elections in December.

Two committees were set up during a meeting on Monday to look into opposition demands, including the setting up of an independent national electoral commission, access to state radio and television, free movement of opposition members and the right to hold rallies.

One committee would look exclusively at the setting up of an independent electoral commission, while the second would deal in general with the opposition's other demands.

Consisting of 18 members each with representatives from the government, political groups, civil society and religious bodies, the committees will meet on Friday to hopefully thrash out the opposition demands.

Opposition spokesman Jean Marie Dore told the Monday meeting: "We decided to return to the dialogue because of the government's renewed commitment to meet their demands".

The atmosphere was initially frosty, as allies of the ruling Party for Unity and Progress, (PUP) continually clashed with Dore. Later the frost cleared.

Among the issues discussed was that government issues instructions to senior civil servants in the interior ministry to allow opposition parties to carry out their functions without hindrance.

Information Minister Mamadi Conde told the opposition that he would take the necessary steps to ensure they were on air "shortly".

However, it was the issue of an amnesty for convicted politicians that proved a thorny issue.

The opposition want an amnesty specifically for Professor Alpha Conde, leader of the Guinean Peoples' Rally (RPG) who was convicted in 2001 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government of Gen. Lansana Conte. Conde was also banned from participating in politics.

Ironically, it was left to the Justice Minister Mamadou Sylla - who as high court judge then convicted Conde - to take a decision on the issue. "The issue is a bit complex, and I will have to seek the consent of parliament on the issue on whether or not to lift the ban on Conde," he told the meeting.

Guinea is gearing up for elections due in December, in which ailing President Lansana Conte will seek a further seven-year term. Conte, who has ruled Guinea with an iron hand since coming to power in a 1984 coup, has resisted demands by western donors to allow private radio and television stations to function in the country.