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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Portugal Grants Ousted Bissau Leader Asylum




LISBON, Portugal -- Ousted Guinea-Bissau President Joao "Nino" Bernardo Vieira asked for and was granted asylum in Portugal but it was not clear whether military rebels would let him leave the West African state.


Some rebel leaders want Vieira, who took refuge in the Portuguese Embassy in Bissau after his forces surrendered on Friday, to stand trial for alleged crimes, Portuguese news media reported from Bissau.


The Military Junta, which now controls the tiny Atlantic seaboard state, summoned a meeting of parliamentary leaders to discuss what steps to take, Portugal's Lusa agency said.


Earlier, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres had announced in Greece, where he is on a visit, that Portugal, the former colonial power, had received a request from the 60-year-old Vieira for political asylum. The request was accepted Sunday, Guterres said.


Bissau's Prime Minister Francisco Fadul, the civilian face of the new military authorities, had said that Vieira would be allowed to leave if he wanted.


But Portuguese news media reported that there were differences of opinion within the rebel hierarchy.


Rebel spokesman Zamora Induta noted that Vieira faced charges of negligence in the question of gun-running to separatist guerrillas in the south of neighboring Senegal.


Some former senior government and army officials were recently accused by parliament of being behind the arms smuggling.


The arms issue is sensitive because it was the pretext used by Vieira for sacking his then-army commander, Brigadier Ansumane Mane, a year ago in a move that triggered the military revolt.


Vieira said his former comrade-in-arms against colonial rule was behind the gun trade.


In reply, Mane took up arms against Vieira accusing him of corruption and plotting to kill him. A parliamentary committee subsequently acquitted Mane of any involvement in the arms trafficking.


According to one senior political official quoted by Lusa, one solution could be for Vieira, in return for being allowed to leave, to formally renounce the presidency and agree to return to Bissau to face any subsequent trial.


The rebels say that they have no political ambitions and that elections, scheduled to be held in November, will go ahead. In the meantime, the government is to be run by a transitional administration, headed by Fadul, which was formed under the terms of a Nigerian-brokered truce late last year.