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Burkina Faso coup leader says he is still in charge

Gen. Gilbert Diendere says he is willing to negotiate but is waiting outcome of summit of West African regional leaders

The leader of a coup in Burkina Faso said on Tuesday he was still in charge despite the passing of a deadline set by loyalist soldiers for his forces to surrender or face attack. 

General Gilbert Diendere, who seized power last week, said he was ready to negotiate but awaited the outcome of a summit of West African regional leaders being held in Nigeria. 

"I'm not stalling for time. I'm within the time allotted to me," he told a news conference. "I am still the president of the National Democratic Council (junta)." 

Earlier on Tuesday, troops loyal to Burkina Faso's government massed in the capital, Ouagadougou, and told soldiers behind the coup to surrender or face attack, setting up a showdown over control of the country.

But Diendere said there was no use for confrontations at this time, and he is confident in negotiations.

"We will find a solution between brothers in arms to avoid confrontations," he said.

The country's military also urged calm, with Gen. Pingrenoma Zagre saying in statement: "I call on the population of Burkina Faso to remain calm and to have confidence in the National Armed Forces, who have reaffirmed their unfailing commitment to preserve the unity of the nation." 

The West African regional mediators have proposed an agreement that calls for Diendere to step down, and for interim President Michael Kafando to be reinstalled until elections can be held. Kafando, who already had been released by the junta, is staying at the residence of the French ambassador in Ouagadougou.

Rebel soldiers still controlled the presidential palace as of 6 a.m. — the deadline set by loyalists for those behind the coup to disarm — but troops that oppose the insurrection held most other key points in Ouagadougou, witnesses said.

The situation remained fluid and loyalists said the rebelling soldiers had already started negotiations on the conditions of their surrender.

In one apparent olive branch, the coup leaders released interim Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, who had been held hostage since the revolt began, his adviser and another loyalist officer told Reuters.

Diendere and his presidential guard rebelled on Wednesday, raiding a cabinet meeting and detaining the president and other ministers.

The coup derailed a transition in Burkina Faso, which had been preparing for an election on Oct. 11. That vote aimed to restore democracy nearly a year after an uprising toppled President Blaise Compaore, who held power for 27 years in the landlocked West African country.

Huge crowds had earlier taken to the streets of the capital and other cities, calling on the rebels to end their revolt. But streets were largely empty on Tuesday as the loyalist army called on people to return to their homes.

“They (the presidential guard) have until 10 a.m. to lay down their weapons and surrender at the Camp Sangoule Lamizana,” the loyalist officer said, referring to a military barracks west of the capital Ouagadougou.

“The prime minister is free. He has returned to his official residence,” said Lieutenant Boris Nadie, Zida's aide-de-camp.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was due to hold an extraordinary summit on Burkina Faso in Abuja on Tuesday after mediators from the West African bloc ECOWAS announced on Sunday a draft agreement aimed at ending the crisis.

Supporters of the government rejected the proposal on the grounds that it gives amnesty to the coup leaders.

“We have no interest in the proposal that will be discussed at the summit because right now we are in the process of solving our own contradictions,” said Sheriff Sy, president of interim transitional council.

His rejection of the proposal was echoed by members of civil society as well as by protesters in the capital who burned tires and blocked streets on Monday in a show of opposition to the ECOWAS move.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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