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Guinea postpones presidential poll

(Article audio available further in this article)

(Reuters) -  Guinean authorities have decided to postpone a presidential election run-off due in four days due to a lack of preparedness, with an announcement on the new date due on Thursday, election commission officials said.

Street battles between rival political camps left one dead and 50 injured this week, while turmoil within the election body itself cast doubts over whether the world's top bauxite exporter can complete its transition from junta to civilian rule.

Election officials emerging from hours of talks in the capital Conakry blamed a lack of necessary voting equipment on the postponement and said it could take up to two weeks for arrangements to be in place.

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"We will meet at 1600 tomorrow (Thursday) to decide on the postponement ... We have to decide on the date," said Foumba Kourouma, a member of the election commission CENI.

Analysts have said a successful election in Guinea, seen as a linchpin of stability in a region scarred by three civil wars, is key to billions of dollars in planned mining investments and could draw a line under decades of authoritarian rule since its independence from France in 1958.

Favorite and former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo's camp had insisted that the run-off must take place on time, while his rival Alpha Conde says several conditions must be met before a fair poll can be held.

"We know it is going to be postponed given the delays in the provision of the necessary equipment," said a source close to Diallo.

A source close to negotiations between CENI and the two rival camps over arrangements for the run-off vote said 1,250 new voting stations were due to be installed. The credibility of June's first-round vote was marred by reports of voters having to travel 30 km (20 miles) to cast their ballot.

Conde scored 18.25 percent in the first round, while Diallo took 43.69 percent, short of the majority needed for victory.

Conde and Diallo come from Guinea's two largest ethnic groups, the Malinke and Peul respectively, and there is a risk that clashes between the two could unsettle fragile neighbors such as Liberia and Sierra Leone with similar ethnic mixes.

"A delay means the Peul will not be happy. They will see this as a victory snatched from them and there is a likelihood of civil clashes between ethnic groups," said analyst Sebastian Spio-Garbrah at London-based DaMina Advisors.

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