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UN slaps sanctions on Guinea-Bissau

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The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to impose sanctions on the leaders of last month's military coup in Guinea-Bissau and key military officers preventing the return to constitutional rule.

A resolution adopted by the council on Friday named four generals and one lieutenant colonel who will be subjected to a travel ban.

The 15-member council "demands that the Military Command takes immediate steps to restore and respect constitutional order, including a democratic electoral process, by ensuring that all soldiers return to the barracks, and that members of the Military Command relinquish their positions of authority."

The Security Council said it was prepared, as needed, to review the appropriateness of the measures in the resolution "including strengthening through additional measures, such as an embargo on arms and financial measures". 

Guinea-Bissau was just weeks away from holding a presidential runoff election when soldiers attacked the front-runner's home and arrested him along with the country's interim president on April 12.

ECOWAS troops deployed

West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS started deploying a 600-strong military force to Guinea-Bissau on Thursday to oversee reform of the local army and a gradual one-year transition to civilian rule after the coup.

The ECOWAS contingent is intended to replace an Angolan force of similar size that also had been overseeing reform of the army.

The coup leaders justified their power grab last month by accusing the Angolans of meddling in local affairs.

The coup cut short a two-round presidential election widely expected to be won by former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who was briefly arrested by the military rulers before being released. He is now in exile in Ivory Coast.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, said it was critical that there was a speedy return to constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau to "send a clear and principled message against unconstitutional seizures of power".

In a statement late on Thursday, Ban's press office said he called for a strict adherence to democratic principles and for the military "to return to their barracks, refrain from any political involvement and to respect civilian authority and the rule of law".

Guinea-Bissau has been plagued with coups and unrest since its 1974 independence from Portugal.


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