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GUINEA: New PM expresses “surprise” at being chosen

CONAKRY, 21 May 2008 (IRIN) - In an exclusive interview with IRIN, Guinea’s newly-appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Tidjane Souaré said his priority will be to “re-establish the credibility of the state”.

“I will help the government create better social services and build better relations between the people and the state,” the 50 year-old civil servant pledged.

Souaré’s unexpected appointment was announced on 20 May by Guinean President Lansana Conté on state-run television.

Souaré said, “I was surprised to have been chosen”.

He replaced Lansana Kouyaté, who held the position for 15 months after being appointed in an internationally-mediated deal to end weeks of bloody anti-government protests.

Asked what needs to change in Guinea, one of the poorest, least-developed countries in West Africa yet also the world’s second largest producer of Bauxite, Souaré told IRIN: “We need to reinforce unity in Guinea and restore people’s confidence in government”.

Souaré, an economist and accountant by training, previously held two senior posts in President Conté government, first as minister of mines, then as minister of education and scientific research.

He left government in January 2007 after Kouyaté reappointed the entire government.

A former colleague of Souaré who asked not to be named said the new prime minister is a “technocrat with integrity”.

Reaction to Souaré’s appointment has been muted in Guinea, though many people said they felt the former prime minister failed to live up to his promises of improving basic living conditions.

Aid donors, diplomats and opposition politicians said public and diplomatic reactions rest largely on who Souaré appoints to his new government.

“He’s been in government before so he’s aware of the political game he will have to play,” a Western diplomat said.

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Theme (s): Early Warning, Economy, Governance, Human Rights,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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