Young Guinea coup chief says will not stand in vote

CONAKRY (Reuters) – The army captain installed as de facto head of state in Guinea in a military coup moved to cement his grip on power on Thursday, but said he would not stand for president in promised elections.

Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara was chosen on Wednesday as leader of Guinea, the world’s biggest exporter of aluminium ore bauxite and a target for billions of dollars in mining investment, after the death of President Lansana Conte earlier in the week.

"I do not have the ambition of being a candidate at the presidential elections," Camara said in comments broadcast by Radio France International.

"I have never had the ambition of power."

The soldiers who mounted the coup, calling themselves the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), appeared unopposed in their control of the capital Conakry three days after Conte’s death from illness.

Government ministers reported to the Alpha Yaya Diallo military base in Conakry’s suburbs, as instructed by the junta.

"Everyone (in government) has gone there. Government ministers met at the prime minister’s house then went to the camp," a police source said.

The coup leaders said late on Wednesday that government members and army generals were to attend the base, and replaced Conte-appointed regional chiefs with military commanders. 

Many businesses were closed in Conakry on Thursday and soldiers patrolled the streets, though roadside vendors were working as normal, and people and cars moved freely.

"We have come out because we can’t stay at home, and we hope the situation will stabilise," said Souleymane Bah, a car mechanic in the capital.

The United Nations, African Union, European Union and United States have condemned this most recent failure of democracy in Africa, which comes after a military coup in Mauritania in August, and post-election violence in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria.

MINING

International firms including Rio Tinto, Alcoa and United Company Rusal dig bauxite, the raw material for aluminium, in the former French colony.

Until earlier this month, Rio planned to spend $6 billion on the Simandou iron ore project, but postponed work as part of a cost-cutting scheme. A firm owned by Israeli diamond dealer Beny Steinmetz has since said it has obtained the rights to a section of the concession.

Mining operations, targeted by protests over a lack of electricity, were not immediately affected by the coup.

Camara was chosen on Wednesday to lead the 32-member junta, which on Tuesday announced the suspension of the constitution and the government. The CNDD has promised to hold elections in two years.

Camara was acclaimed by crowds of Guineans when he toured Conakry on Wednesday, with some hailing him as "Obama junior", referring to U.S.-president elect Barack Obama.

Camara has defended the coup as "a civic act … to save a people in distress". Guinea’s civilian leader, National Assembly President Aboubacar Sompare, who under the constitution should have taken over as interim head of state, has appealed to the international community to prevent the coup from succeeding.