Guinea-Bissau junta, parties seek post-coup accord

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Political parties met with Guinea-Bissau's military junta Sunday in an attempt to reach a political solution days after soldiers arrested the prime minister in the tiny West African nation.

Opposition coalition spokesman Fernando Vaz said Sunday that the military group met with political parties for the third day in an attempt to reach an agreement before a military contingent from West African regional bloc ECOWAS arrives Monday.

Another political party spokesman who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter said that most parties do not want to be associated with what is widely seen as a coup in the nation known for transiting cocaine to Europe.

Vaz said the parties are inviting the party of the detained prime minister to join talks, but it isn't clear if the party will accept. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. was the front-runner in a presidential poll scheduled April 29.

Vaz said the group was considering two proposals. One, he said, is a constitutional solution, but one that would exclude Gomes. The other, he said, would be "to opt for a radical change." He did not give details.

Gomes was unpopular with soldiers because of his efforts to reform the military by downsizing the bloated, top-heavy army, strengthening the police and fighting the cocaine-trafficking business in which some senior officers and politicians are believed embroiled.

The junta said interim president Raimundo Pereira and army chief Antonio Indjai were also arrested along with Gomes. The group issued a communique Saturday saying Pereira, Gomes and Indjai "are safe," without giving further details. This led to speculation that the soldiers had deposed the head of the army, but a military spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied he had been detained.

On Thursday, unidentified soldiers calling themselves "the military commando" attacked Gomes' home with rocket-propelled grenades and detained him, ensuring he joins the ranks of all the other leaders who never have finished a term of office in the country's nearly 40 years of independence. Other government leaders are in hiding.

The mutineers claim they have a secret document that Gomes signed with Angola's president authorizing Angolan troops — in Bissau to carry out reforms of the military — to "annihilate" Guinea-Bissau's top soldiers.

The Economic Community of West African States, which has condemned the coup, on Friday said it will send a military contingent to provide security in Guinea-Bissau. The bloc also agreed to send a civilian-military delegation along with mediator President Alpha Conde of Guinea.

ECOWAS' condemnation was quickly echoed by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States.