(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Olympio leaves talks prematurely

Togo's leading opposition figure, Gilchrist Olympio, returned to exile in Ghana just hours after arriving in Lome on Monday for all-party national reconciliation talks, news reports said.

"It is regrettable that he did not stay for a full and profitable
dialogue," government spokesman Kofi Panou told IRIN on Tuesday.

Olympio, leader of the Union de forces de changement (UFC) party, told reporters he returned to Ghana because he was unable to meet with the ruling Rassemblement du peuple togolais (RPT) for talks on one of the key issues in dispute, the results of the 1998 presidential elections.

On arrival in Lome, he insisted on direct talks between the UFC and politicians backing the head of state, President Gnassingbe Eyadema. The result was a suspension of discussions for several hours, while other parties protested about being sidelined. One of the parties attending the talks, the Comite d'action pour le renouveau (CAR), told reporters that it objected strongly to Olympio's demand for exclusive talks.

The talks, which began on 19 July and aim to defuse a political crisis between government and opposition parties, are expected to end on Thursday.

Olympio, who has lived in Ghana since an assassination attempt on him in 1992, had until Monday refused to attend the reconciliation talks saying that his security was not assured.

"Everything was in place for him here, his security had been assured and nothing can justify his return to Ghana," Panou told IRIN.

Olympio has called for a re-run of the disputed 1998 presidential poll, which Eyadema won, and a March parliamentary election, which the UFC and the rest of the main opposition boycotted. Olympio claims he won the election.

In remarks coinciding with a visit by French President Jacques Chirac last week, Eyadema said the parliamentary election would be re-run in 2000 and that he would not seek re-election when his current term expires in 2003.

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