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West African leaders to head to Burkina Faso

23 September 2015, 19:01

Ouagadougou — West African leaders will head to Burkina Faso on Wednesday to try to resolve the country's political crisis following a coup last week.

There was a tense standoff in the capital Tuesday after the coup leader refused to heed a deadline for his men to lay down their arms even after troops opposing the takeover poured into the capital.

Gen. Gilbert Diendere, the coup leader, instead said he would hand over power when requested by West African leaders of the regional body known as ECOWAS who met in Nigeria.

The heads of states of Senegal, Togo, Benin and Nigeria are now expected in Ouagadougou on Wednesday, said the spokeswoman for Diendere's office, Yolande Kalwoule. Earlier the office said in a communique that the African leaders were expected Tuesday after the meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

ECOWAS commission chairman Kadre Desire Ouedraogo and United Nations representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas will travel with them, the spokeswoman said.

Soldiers from all over this West African nation arrived in Ouagadougou in a show of force to convince the troops backing the coup to lay down their arms. Residents cheered the troops' arrival early Tuesday before they were asked to return to their homes.

As the deadline set by the military for the presidential guard, which mounted the coup last week, to return to their barracks by 10 a.m. (1000 GMT) passed, the streets were deserted with fearful residents staying home.

Diendere told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he is waiting for the results of talks on the crisis being held in Nigeria's capital by the leaders of the ECOWAS countries.

"I will hand over power to a civilian on the date recommended by the ECOWAS summit. I do not want to play a particular role in the transition," the former commander of the presidential guard said. "I do not want to be prime minister."

Diendere said he wants to avoid fighting between rival military units.

"We will find a solution between brothers in arms to avoid confrontations," he told a news conference on Tuesday.

Government troops loyal to the transitional government had assembled around the national radio and television stations and around barracks.

"I call on the population of Burkina Faso to remain calm and to have confidence in the National Armed Forces who have reaffirmed their unfailing commitment to preserve the unity of the nation," Gen. Pingrenoma Zagre said in a statement.

The transitional government was installed after long-term President Blaise Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising last October. Elections were to have been held next month but Diendere, who led the presidential guard under Compaore and was an adviser to him, has said that's too early.

West African mediators want interim President Michael Kafando to be reinstalled until elections can be held. Kafando has sought shelter at the residence of the French ambassador here.

An electoral code passed earlier this year had banned members of Compaore's party from taking part in the election. The former ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress party said one of its leaders, Achilles Tapsoba, was arrested in the south of the capital.

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- AP


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