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Junta taps banker for Guinea post

The pick a week after the coup raises hope other promises will be honored. Coup leaders have public, but not global, support.

CONAKRY, Guinea - Coup leaders in Guinea named a civilian banker yesterday as prime minister, making good on a key promise a week after seizing power upon the death of the country's longtime dictator.

Their choice, Kabine Komara, is a director of the African Export-Import Bank, in Cairo, an institution that promotes trade among African states. His selection raises hopes that the military junta may honor other commitments, including holding elections and cracking down on corruption.

This West African nation has an abundance of gold, diamonds, iron, timber, and bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum. But for 24 years, Guinea's treasury has been pillaged by officials loyal to the late President Lansana Conte, and its people have fallen deeper and deeper into poverty.

Coup leader Moussa Camara's troops held raids the last two days to reclaim government property allegedly stolen by Conte's inner clique. The charismatic Capt. Camara has won overwhelming public approval by promising to punish those who stole from the state.

But his welcome by the international community has been less than warm.

The European Union yesterday reiterated its condemnation of the coup, urging the junta to hand over executive power to an interim civilian government that will organize elections. The African Union froze Guinea's membership in the bloc, threatening further sanctions if the junta did not restore constitutional order.

Camara invited foreign diplomats and U.N. representatives to the presidential compound yesterday to hear his views, but became visibly annoyed when a European ambassador asked Camara if he could guarantee that no junta members would appear on the presidential ballot he proposed to hold in two years.

"I am a military man - and I don't know how to lie," he retorted. "In the history of coup d'etats, for the first time there was no massacre, and the members of the former government were not put in handcuffs and humiliated. . . . Why are you, the European Union, condemning us?"

The junta, which is working hard to win over key regional players, sent a top envoy to meet yesterday with the president of neighboring Guinea-Bissau. Delegations were also being sent to other neighbors, including Sierra Leone.