April 19, 2011 / 1:39 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 1-Burkina Faso names new premier after riots

* Former ambassador to France named prime minister

* Presidential guard apologises on TV for unrest

* New army chief of staff pledges dialogue

(adds quote from new army chief of staff)

By Mathieu Bonkoungou

OUAGADOUGOU, April 19 (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore appointed a former journalist and ambassador to France as the new prime minister, hoping to restore stability after a series of violent protests by soldiers.

Compaore had sacked the government and top military chiefs on Friday after members of his own presidential guard went on a rampage in the capital of the West African state, firing their weapons in the air, looting shops and commandeering cars.

A decree made public late on Monday named Burkina’s 56-year-old ambassador to France, Luc Adolphe Tiao, as the new prime minister.

Since mid-March, the capital and outlying towns in the impoverished country have been roiled by unrest.

Protests by soldiers over pay have been joined by angry students, business people, and residents taking to the streets against rising food prices, police brutality and crime.

A spokesman for Compaore’s presidential security regiment appeared on television on Monday night calling on soldiers to stop their protests and apologising to the public for the “inconveniences” caused during Friday’s riots.

“We condemn the vandalism, the looting and the troubles that have taken place over the past few days,” Moussa Ag Abdoulaye, a low-ranking soldier, said in the statement read out on television.

The new army chief of staff, a respected general and former chairman of Burkina Faso’s football federation, said the military needed to resolve its own problems through dialogue.

“The head of state, who is the army commander in chief, has responded favourably to the soldiers’ grievances. So we will meet with them to start over with a clean slate, because the image of our army has been tarnished,” General Nabere Honore Traore told reporters.

Burkina Faso has been under Compaore’s tight rule since he took power in a 1987 coup and has so far avoided the conflicts and upheavals seen in many of its neighbours.

He won a new five-year term in office after taking 80 percent of the votes in an election last November, but analysts say increasing pressure from the military and the civilian population has weakened his grip on power. (Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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