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UN panel to investigate Guinea killings

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is establishing an international commission to investigate the attack on unarmed protesters in Guinea last month that left dozens dead and many injured.

A mission was leaving yesterday to look into arrangements for setting up a commission to determine who was responsible, UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

"The secretary-general remains deeply concerned by the tense situation in Guinea following the violent crackdown, which he had strongly condemned, on unarmed civilians," she said.

A peaceful pro-democracy rally in the West African country on Sept. 28 took a violent turn when presidential guard troops opened fire on tens of thousands of demonstrators. A Guinean human rights group says 157 people were killed. The government put the death toll at 57.

Montas said the mission's leader, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios will meet with Guinean authorities, regional organizations and others regarding the work of the commission.

The International Criminal Court announced Thursday a preliminary investigation into last month's violence. The violence has drawn widespread condemnation, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling for military leader Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara to apologise and step down.

The UN investigation was announced on the same day that the resignations of two Cabinet ministers in Guinea were announced and as France urged its citizens to leave as security deteriorated in the aftermath of the bloody rally.

Information Minister Justin Morel Jr. and Labor Minister Alpha Diallo said they could not serve a government responsible for such violence.

Morel resigned on Thursday citing moral reasons, and Diallo on Wednesday, citing religious convictions.

"My conscience has remained tormented, my heart disturbed, and my sense of reasoning has told me that I no longer have any reason to continue to head this ministry and neither do I have the moral force to be the spokesman of the government after these horrible killings," Morel said in his resignation letter to military leader Camara.

The resignations follow that of Agriculture Minister Abdulrahmane Sano on Monday. Sano cited the protest as the reason for his resignation.

The French government has advised its citizens to leave Guinea because of attacks by gunmen against people leaving Conakry's airport. They also reported attacks in homes and cars throughout the city and suburbs.

The French Foreign Ministry says on its Web site "there is no prospect of improvement in the short term."

Camara seized power hours after longtime dictator Lansana Conte died last December. He initially said he would not run in elections scheduled for January, but recently indicated that he may have changed his mind. After the deadly protest, he banned all gatherings and demonstrations.