Guinea urges calm after anti-govt protest turns violent

Updated 01 March 2013
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Guinea urges calm after anti-govt protest turns violent

CONAKRY: Authorities in Guinea called for calm yesterday after more than 100 people were injured in clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in the capital Conakry.
The government is preparing for a long-delayed parliamentary election the opposition fears will be rigged.
"We call on the population to remain calm," said government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara. "The street is not the place to resolve political disagreements."
A government official said on state television that 130 people were hurt in Wednesday's riots, including 68 members of the security forces, two of whom were in a critical condition.
Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets to protest against the May election. Clashes broke out between rock-throwing youths and security forces armed with truncheons and teargas grenades. Police in anti-riot gear were posted in opposition strongholds in the capital on Thursday. Many shops were closed and debris, including burned tyres and rocks, littered the streets.
Opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, who lost narrowly to President Alpha Conde in the 2010 election, accused the security forces of cracking down harshly on demonstrators, adding some were arrested and beaten.
"The president of the republic has a crucial responsibility to create peace. He needs to agree to listen to others, to respect his adversaries," he said. Conde was attending a regional summit in Ivory Coast during the protests.
Guinea's opposition coalition called for widespread protests in Conakry after announcing last week it would boycott preparations for the election, saying they were flawed.
The election set for May 12 is intended to be the last step in Guinea's transition to civilian rule after two years under a army junta following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte in 2008. The poll was due to have been held in 2011 but has been delayed four times.
The opposition says the elections commission chose the poll date unilaterally and that two companies contracted to update voter rolls have skewed the lists in Conde's favour. They also want Guineans living abroad to be allowed to vote.
Conde won the 2010 presidential election in the world's top supplier of bauxite, the raw material in aluminium, promising prosperity for the former French colony's 10 million people whose economy produces only about $ 1.50 per person per day despite a wealth of natural resources, including the world's largest untapped iron ore deposit.
The European Union, a major donor, warned in November that it needed a credible and detailed timeline for the election to unblock about 174 million euros ($ 229 million) in aid.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said: "France calls on all Guinea's political players to hold back and commit immediately in good faith in a process of political dialogue."


South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

Updated 54 min 48 sec ago
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South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

  • Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them
  • The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month

CHEORWON, South Korea: South Korea exploded a front-line guard post Thursday, sending plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky above the border with North Korea, in the most dramatic scene to date in the rivals’ efforts to reduce animosities that sparked last year’s fears of war.
Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them. The steps are part of agreements signed in September during a meeting between their leaders in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
On Thursday, South Korea’s military invited a group of journalists to watch the destruction of a guard post with dynamite in the central border area of Cheorwon. The journalists were asked to stay hundreds of meters (yards) away as black smoke enveloped the hilly border area. They later watched soldiers and other workers bulldoze another guard post.
While most of the South Korean guard posts are being destroyed with construction equipment for environmental and safety reasons, dynamite was used for the first structure because of its location on a high hill where it was difficult employ excavators, the Defense Ministry said.
North Korea is demolishing its guard posts with explosives, according to South Korean media.
The guard posts are inside the 248-kilometer (155-mile)-long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile)-wide border called the Demilitarized Zone. Unlike its name, it’s the world’s most heavily fortified border with an estimated 2 million land mines planted in and near the zone. The area has been the site of violence and bloodshed since the 1945 division of the Korean Peninsula, and civilians need special government approval to enter the zone.
The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month before jointly verifying the destruction next month. South Korea had about 60 posts inside the DMZ guarded by layers of barbed wire and manned by troops with machine guns. North Korea was estimated to have 160 such front-line posts.
Under the September agreements, the Koreas are also disarming the shared border village of Panmunjom and clearing mines from another DMZ area where they plan their first-ever joint searches for Korean War dead. They’ve also halted live-fire exercises along the border.
The deals are among a set of steps they have taken since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached out to Seoul and Washington early this year with a vague commitment to nuclear disarmament. The fast-improving inter-Korean ties have raised worries among many in South Korea and the United States as global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program has produced little recent progress.