Guinea president picks ally to replace army chief

CONAKRY Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:13am EST

Guinea's President Alpha Conde arrives for a meeting with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh May 25, 2012. REUTERS/Samrang Pring (CAMBODIA - Tags: POLITICS PROFILE) - RTR32LR2

Guinea's President Alpha Conde arrives for a meeting with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh May 25, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Samrang Pring (CAMBODIA - Tags: POLITICS PROFILE) - RTR32LR2

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CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea President Alpha Conde named Brigadier General Namory Traore as head of the West African state's armed forces on Tuesday, replacing General Souleymane Kelefa Diallo who died in a plane crash with five other top army officials on February 11.

Traore is seen as a close ally of Conde's who will carry on a U.N.-backed reform effort to rein in the notoriously undisciplined and bloated Guinea armed forces, blamed for killings and coups since 1958 independence.

"(Traore's) nomination can be seen as a move for continuity as far as the army reform effort is concerned," a high ranking army officer told Reuters on condition of anonymity, following the decree announced on state television.

Diallo was appointed by Conde after the latter won elections in 2010 in the world's top bauxite producer, and was an architect of the reform of Guinea's powerful military under which some 4,000 soldiers were forced to retire.

Traore had served as deputy head of the armed forces under Diallo. Authorities are investigating the cause of the plane crash, which occurred near neighboring Liberia's capital Monrovia during a security mission.

Conde's government has been trying to organize legislative elections for May, the final step in the transition back to civilian rule after a 2008 coup and a prerequisite to unlock millions of dollars of frozen foreign aid.

But the opposition, alleging bias in the electoral authority, has withdrawn from poll preparations.

Conde's 2010 election in a vote hailed as the first free elections since the end of French rule was marred by deadly riots and opposition allegations of fraud.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Editing by Richard Valdmanis)

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