August 4, 2010 / 8:22 PM / 8 years ago

INTERVIEW-Guinea's Conde promises mines review, army pay rise

* Presidential hopeful Conde says would revisit contracts

* Both run-off candidates have pledged contract review

By Saliou Samb CONAKRY, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Guinean presidential hopeful Alpha Conde said on Wednesday he would order a review of the country’s mining contracts if elected, days after his rival in the run-off vote promised to do the same.

Conde, seen as underdog in the race with Cellou Dallein Diallo for leadership of the world’s biggest bauxite exporter, also said he would triple the army’s pay and put the military, which is notoriously undisciplined, to work rebuilding the nation.

After a peaceful first round of voting, Guineans are hoping a successful run-off will help them draw a line under decades of misrule, and a particularly unstable 18 months of military rule of the West African nation.

Conde said he would bring together a number of experts to analyse contracts with foreign firms, which include those recently signed by Rio Tinto, Vale, and Chalco.

“If the contract seems a “Win-Win” we will keep it. Where it is not a “Win-Win”, we will negotiate so both sides have their fair share,” Conde told Reuters in an interview.

“Because we respect international law, we are not going to break contracts, but we are going to negotiate them,” he added.

Conde said the review would not be limited to mining contracts, though mining is the country’s main industry.

Front-runner Diallo, who has the backing of third-placed Sidya Toure, also told Reuters this week that he would propose renegotiating mining deals worth billions of dollars if elected.

Since the election Conde, who won 18.25 percent of the first round vote, compared with Diallo’s 44 percent, has tried to increase his support through an alliance with former Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate, who was fourth in the first round.

Long before the Guinean election, Rio Tinto and Vale surprised many by saying they would spend billions on iron ore projects there, betting that contracts would be upheld by the next government.

No date has been set for the second round of voting but West Africa’s mediator for Guinea called on Tuesday for it to be held soon to ensure that the attempt to return power to civilians stayed on track.

Analysts say that whoever wins the election will face the prickly task of reforming Guinea’s army, which has been running the country since a December 2008 coup after the death of veteran ruler Lansana Conte.

Under coup leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, the military was widely accused of rights abuses. The situation appears to have improved since Camara was shot in the head, but survived, last December and was replaced by General Sekouba Konate.

“(Konate) has proposed increasing (army wages) 100 percent, but I would raise them by 200 percent,” Conde said.

“We will (also) help the soldiers, like in most developed countries, where camps are built for them to live in, they are given medicine and food ... they will also take part in the country’s economic activities,” he added, suggesting putting soldiers to work building roads and railways. (Writing by David Lewis; editing by Tim Pearce)

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