CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s opposition leader pulled out of a meeting with President Alpha Conde on Friday aimed at resolving a political standoff over the timing of elections, following a day of violent protests in the capital.
At least one person was killed and others were injured, including some with gunshot wounds, on Thursday, in the latest in a series of clashes between opposition supporters and security forces that began in mid-April.
Conde had invited Cellou Dalein Diallo to talks on Friday to try to ease the tensions and an opposition spokesman this week had said Diallo, after shunning earlier overtures, was ready to meet the president.
However, Souleymane Tianguel Bah, spokesman for Diallo’s UFDG party, said early on Friday that the opposition leader would not be attending the meeting.
“We cannot, in such a context, go to a meeting when the conditions for a serene dialogue are absent,” Bah told Reuters.
The opposition says a decision announced in March to hold Guinea’s presidential election on Oct. 11 broke a 2013 agreement to stage long-delayed local elections first.
Analysts say holding local elections first would give Conde’s rivals more influence in organizing the presidential polls.
Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said the authorities would continue efforts to organize talks with the opposition, despite Diallo’s decision to pull out of Friday’s meeting.
“We can only regret the decision of the opposition leader. The goal of this meeting was precisely to open the path to dialogue and allow all this violence we’re seeing to stop,” he told Reuters.
An opposition spokesman said that one person had died during Thursday’s violence, bringing the total number of dead since the protests began to six, according to the opposition. Another 15 people were injured on Thursday, including five with gunshot wounds, he said.
Camara acknowledged one person had died on Thursday without giving further details. The government says five people have died in total in the demonstrations.
A government statement said six people, including two gendarmes, were injured on Thursday. Two had been shot.
The authorities have repeatedly rejected opposition accusations that security forces have fired live rounds at protesters, claiming that police and gendarmes have also come under fire.
Writing by Joe Bavier