France declares neutrality in Guinea vote

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France is not backing any candidate for president of Guinea, the foreign ministry said Wednesday following local media reports that Paris had thrown its weight behind the main opposition leader.

Voters in the mineral-rich west African country will cast ballots on June 27 to choose a president, the first free election since independence from France in 1958.

There have been some reports in Guinean media that Alpha Conde, leader of the main opposition Rally of Guinean People (RPG), was Paris's choice to lead the country.

"This historic ballot belongs to Guineans," said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

"France, along with its partners, fully supports the electoral process. It does not support any candidate," he added.

Conde is one of 24 candidates running for the presidency along with former prime ministers Cellou Dalein Diallo, Francois Lonseny Fall, Lansana Kouyate and Sidya Toure.

One woman is also standing, Kaba Hadja Saran Daraba, who served in the former government of long-time leader Lansana Conte.

Conte's death two years ago ended his 24-year military regime, but a military junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in December 2008.

Camara was the victim of an assassination bid that left him severely wounded last December, three months after a widely condemned massacre of at least 156 opposition demonstrators by troops in a Conakry stadium.

A transitional regime is being headed by General Sekouba Konate, who is not running for election.

© 2010 AFP

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