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Guinea-Bissau Asks Security Cl help with Elections

President of Guinea-Bissau requests Security Council help with salaries, elections

The President of Guinea-Bissau, Henrique Perreira Rosa, today appealed to the United Nations Security Council to help his West African country pay its civil servants the salaries owed them and assist his transitional government in preparing peaceful elections.

After a closed-door meeting, President Rosa told journalists that he made two requests of the 15-member body during his first-ever encounter with the Council.

"As you know we are the transitional authority. We need immediate and urgent help to pay government employees a year's salaries," he said, adding that his Government was preparing to submit a formal request for assistance from donor countries by the end of next month.

Joining him at the meeting to brief the Council were the President of the UN Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, the Representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nana Akufo Addo, and Henrique Valle, representative of the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries.

David Stephen, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Representative for Guinea-Bissau, was also scheduled to speak at the meeting chaired by Foreign Minister João Bernardo de Miranda of Angola, which currently holds the Council's rotating Presidency.

The Government of President Kumba Yala failed to pay salaries, leading to waves of strikes by teachers, health care workers and other government employees. The strikes brought a military junta to power in mid-September, but it has pledged to hold elections.

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"We will hold elections in the future, according to the charter signed in Guinea-Bissau, that is to say, by March of 2004," Mr. Rosa said. "We hope those elections will go well, but for that the international community must help us to establish a favourable atmosphere so people can vote freely - with transparency and freedom."

Mr. Rosa, an economist and businessman, headed the National Election Commission for the first multi-party elections in 1994. His Government must prepare for parliamentary elections by next March and for presidential elections a year later.

He said the country still had the infrastructure and institutions necessary to hold the upcoming elections.

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