June 20, 2013 / 1:28 PM / in 4 years

Guinea's opposition leader suspends talks with government

CONAKRY, June 20 (Reuters) - Guinea’s main opposition leader on Thursday pulled out of U.N.-mediated election talks with the government, accusing police and youths of attacking him and his supporters.

The negotiations aim to secure opposition participation in long-delayed elections which are meant to seal the mineral-rich nation’s transition to civilian rule following a coup in 2008.

Cellou Dalein Diallo, who heads the UFDG party, said he and his supporters were attacked by stone-throwing youths and police near his home in the capital Conakry on Wednesday. The opposition said 17 people were injured in the clashes.

He had been returning from an appearance in court, where he is facing defamation charges brought against him by an ally of President Alpha Conde.

“They can’t attack us like this, fire tear gas at us, allow thugs to throw stones at us and expect us to go along with it,” Diallo said. “For now, the UFDG is suspending its participation in the dialogue.”

The government said the violence had been provoked by youths from Diallo’s own neighbourhood.

Other members of the opposition coalition said they would meet to decide whether to follow Diallo’s lead and withdraw from the negotiations.

More than 50 people have been killed over the past three months in protests by the opposition, who accuse Conde of stuffing the electoral roll with his ethnic Malinke supporters.

Political instability following the military coup has deterred some investors despite Guinea’s large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold and other minerals.

The U.N. envoy Saïd Djinnit said this month there had been a breakthrough in the talks between the government and opposition parties.

The elections commission, known as the CENI, said this week that a June 30 date for the polls, which was rejected by the opposition, would need to be pushed back.

Conde’s 2010 election victory was marred by violence. Diallo came second in that contest.

Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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