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Guinea election body fails to set new poll date

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CONAKRY, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Guinea's electoral commission failed to meet on Thursday to set a date for a presidential election run -off, casting doubt on the country's bid to return to civilian rule.
The commission had on Wednesday postponed the election which had been scheduled for Sept. 19. It said it would meet on Thursday to set a date.

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"The meeting which was to have taken place today (Thursday) did not happen," said CENI official Foumba Kouroumba. "It has been postponed without a new date fixed."

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.

Street battles killed one person and injured 50 this week as rival political camps traded accusations of attempted vote-rigging, while turmoil within the election body itself had made a delay to Sunday's poll look increasingly inevitable.

Election officials in the world's biggest bauxite exporter gave no reasons for the postponement of Thursday's meeting.

On Wednesday, they blamed the election delay on a lack of necessary voting equipment and said it could take up to two weeks for arrangements to be in place.

Favourite and former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo's camp had insisted 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.

Conde scored 18.25 percent in the first round in June, 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 neighbours such as Liberia and Sierra Leone with similar ethnic mixes.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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