Guinea presidential candidates call for end to violence

Police on patrol in Conakry, 22 October 2010
Image caption Mr Diallo accused the security forces of provoking violence

The two rival presidential candidates in Guinea have appealed for calm after two days of violence in the capital, Conakry.

The clashes between the candidates' supporters and security forces followed the postponement of the presidential run-off for the third time.

A new date has not yet been announced.

On Sunday, a government ban on demonstrations was observed by party supporters.

The election is intended to be the first democratic poll in the West African country, after 52 years of authoritarian rule.

Opposition leader Alpha Conde, who won 18% of the vote in the first round in June, called on his supporters to remain calm and avoid stoking ethnic tensions.

His rival, former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, asked his followers "to refrain from revenge attacks to preserve the country's peace and unity".

Mr Diallo also accused the security forces of provoking violence, raping and carrying out arbitrary arrests in the strongholds of his party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG).

Mr Diallo is seen as the favourite to win the run-off. He took 44% of the votes in the first round - and claims he was denied overall victory only by fraud.

Since the first round of the vote, both sides have accused their opponent's supporters of inciting violence and disturbing the vote.

The interim prime minister, Jean-Marie Dore, announced a ban on demonstrations on Saturday, and on Sunday the streets of Conakry and other cities were reported to be calm.

A BBC correspondent in Guinea says the ban and the candidates' appeals have persuaded people to end the violence.

'Zero tolerance'

On Friday, supporters of the two candidates clashed in the capital after the delay of the second round was announced by the electoral commission.

The violence continued on Saturday, and witnesses said security forces fired live rounds to stop the fighting and looting.

There were also reports of shops being looted of destroyed in Kankan and Siguiri.

Guinea's interim leader, Gen Sekouba Konate, warned the rioters to stop and said there would be "zero tolerance for delinquents and those responsible for criminal acts".

The military seized power in 2008, leading to two years of political upheaval.

The run-off was scheduled for this weekend, but election chief Gen Toumany Sangare said it had been cancelled due to logistical problems.

The UN and US both urged Guinea to set a new date as soon as possible to avoid instability.

The first round was seen as Guinea's first democratic vote since independence in 1958, raising hopes of an end to military and authoritarian rule in the mineral-rich country.

Guinea is the world's largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite. It also has important deposits of iron ore, but it remains one of the poorest countries in West Africa.

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