By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The military junta that rules Guinea, the world’s biggest bauxite exporter and a linchpin for stability in the West Africa, has begun talks with opposition figures about forming a government of national unity.
Caretaker junta leader Sekouba Konate has pledged to work with a prime minister drawn from the opposition and move towards democratic elections.
However the plan could still be scuppered by junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who is now in Burkina Faso after a month-long convalescence in Morocco following an assassination bid and who now wants to return to Guinea to resume rule.
Following are the main contenders for prime minister:
Conde, a septuagenarian former law teacher, is leader of the Assembly of Guinean People (RPG), the country’s main opposition party, and an ever-present anti-government figure.
Sentenced to death in absentia by Sekou Toure, Guinea’s first post-independence ruler, he later stood against President Lansana Conte in elections in 1993, and was arrested for sedition before the poll in 1998. Conde is close to Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Minister of former colonial power France.
CELLOU DALEIN DIALLO
After a decade working at Guinea’s central bank, Diallo joined Lansana Conte’s government in the mid-1990s, holding several offices before being appointed prime minister in late 2004. Conte sacked him in 2006 soon after giving him greater powers, a move which was seen as appeasing a military wary of a strong prime minister.
After his dismissal he became leader of opposition group the Union of Guinean Democratic Forces (UFDG), though some Guineans still associate him closely with the Conte regime.
Present at the Sept. 28 massacre by security forces of more than 150 unarmed pro-democracy marchers, Diallo sustained three broken ribs in the violence, medical sources said.
Leader of the Union for the Progress of Guinea (UPG), 70-year old Dore is a longstanding opposition figure who came to prominence in the early 1990s. He unsuccessfully stood against Conte in elections in 1993 and 1998, and unlike many opposition figures has never served in government.
A prominent member of pro-democracy and civil society umbrella group the Forum of Living Forces (FFV), he has taken a lead role in negotiations with Camara’s National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) junta. Like Camara, he comes from one of the minority ethnic groups of the Forestiere region.
FRANCOIS LONCENY FALL
A heavyweight diplomat, Fall served in various official posts in Paris, New York, Lagos and Cairo before representing Guinea at the United Nations between 2000 and 2002, and was appointed Foreign Minister in 2002.
He acted as President of the U.N. Security Council in March 2003 and in 2005 was chosen by Kofi Annan as his Special Representative for Somalia. Fall was appointed prime minister of Guinea in early 2004, but resigned only months later.
Fall has something of a reputation as a playboy and is widely thought to seek the presidency, but as head of the United Front for Democracy and Change (FUDEC), he has said he would put his personal goals on hold. "In the interest of the country, I am ready to set to one side my own ambitions," he told journalists.
Toure, head of the Union of Republican Forces (UFR), is seen by many opposition figures and supporters as a front runner for the position.
He is experienced in the upper echelons of government, having already served as prime minister between 1996 and 1999, during which time he made a name for himself by tackling problems with Guinea’s electricity provision network, and for opening dialogue between Guinea and donor countries.
He also worked as cabinet director for Ivory Coast’s then prime minister Alassane Ouattara.
Some Guineans view Toure as excessively self-regarding, a trait which has alienated him from some former allies. Many also resent him for having backed despised former strongman Lansana Conte, who ruled Guinea for decades, by saying "Conte, I am following in your footsteps."
(Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Giles Elgood)