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Sao Tome and Principe's putschists and international mediators were
set to continue talks today, as the deposed president of the west
African archipelago insisted the coup leaders return to their
barracks before he negotiate with them.
Yesterday's talks between a 30-strong mediation team and army
rebels led by Major Fernando Pereira took place amid signs of
progress, after the late-night release of seven ministers and a
legal adviser, held since last week's coup.
The officials were freed after Pereira and the head mediator,
Congolese Foreign Minister Rodolphe Adada, agreed that they would
be placed under military surveillance at their homes - as were
three women ministers freed earlier - and barred from trying to
"exert any pressure" on negotiations.
The mediator and the junta both hailed the officials' release as a
breakthrough that would help pave a way out of the crisis.
Deposed president Fradique de Menezes welcomed the move, but still
felt that those responsible for last Wednesday's power grab had not
yet fulfilled all the conditions necessary for his return, his
spokesperson said yesterday.
Guillaume Neto, media adviser to the ousted leader who has been
stranded in the Nigerian capital, said the release of the
government figures had been one of the preconditions for his
"The conditions for his return are that the prisoners are
liberated, the military return to their barracks and that
constitutional order be restored," Neto said by telephone from de
Menezes' Abuja hotel.
"Once those conditions are met the president can return home and
discuss the military's concerns," he said.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo held talks with the ousted
leader yesterday in Abuja, during which he stressed that Nigeria
was working in concert with the international mediators in Sao
Meanwhile, Pereira's putschists and the mediation team from several
Portuguese-speaking and African countries, as well as the US, met
at UN offices in the capital of the impoverished archipelago in
west Africa's Gulf of Guinea.
The negotiators represent eight countries - Angola, Brazil, Cape
Verde, Congo, Gabon, Mozambique, Nigeria and Portugal.
The talks are also being held under the auspices of the African
Union, which has expressed its determination to end military
takeovers and civil wars in Africa.
The rebel delegation has included seven military and three members
of the Christian Democratic Front (FDC), which is not represented
The FDC head Arlesio Costa, not an army member, also attended the
talks wearing military fatigues. Political sources have said Costa
was the real coup leader.
The Gabon-based US ambassador to Sao Tome, Kenneth Moorefield, who
was in Sao Tome when the coup occurred, remained in the country and
was also participating in international mediation efforts.
In Washington, the US welcomed the ministers' release but called
for full restoration of the elected government.
"We continue to urge a peaceful, nonviolent resolution in Sao Tome,
including allowing the elected government to continue to function,"
deputy State Department spokesperson Philip Reeker told
Speaking in South Africa, the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Jose
Maria Neves, told reporters in Pretoria that democracy was on the
way to being restored in Sao Tome.
The coup leaders "have freed the people they imprisoned at the time
of the coup.
They have said they want to return power to the democratic
"One can almost say that democracy is on its way to being restored
in Sao Tome and Principe," he said.
Despite de Menezes's isolation in neighboring Nigeria, he was seen
by several diplomats participating in the Sao Tome talks as being
the best choice for the leadership of the impoverished island
But others in Sao Tome were skeptical, and one source scoffed at
the talks, calling them a "masquerade".
"This mediation isn't getting to the heart of things, and the
problems will only begin again... Fradique (de Menezes) is the real
problem in Sao Tome," the source said.
Junta leader Pereira, known by the nickname "Cobo", described the
coup last week as "an SOS to the international community" over
rampant corruption on the tiny islands that are home to 140 000
Many residents of Sao Tome voiced hope that the coup would result
in an improvement in their quality of life, where the average
annual income is around $280.
The archipelago is burdened by one of the highest per capita debt
ratios in the world and is heavily dependent on foreign aid,
although it is banking on future revenues from substantial offshore
oil reserves. – Sapa-AFP.