* President, PM hold talks after army chief ousted
* PM Gomes receives threat by new army boss
* UN’s Ban urges talks between civilians, military
By Alberto Dabo
BISSAU, April 2 (Reuters) – Guinea Bissau’s leaders held emergency talks on Friday after renegade soldiers ousted the army chief, with the United Nations appealing for a return to order in the fragile West African state.
The new chiefs of the country’s armed forces, long a source of instability in a country which is a major drugs trafficking route to Europe, denied their seizure of military command on Thursday had been an attempt to overthrow the government.
Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who was briefly held by soldiers on Thursday, rushed in a police convoy to the palace of President Malam Bacai Sanha on Friday morning, a Reuters witness in the capital said.
Sanha played down the affair as an internal army dispute, but there was concern it would undermine his efforts to bring stability to the country since soldiers assassinated his predecessor Joao Bernardo Vieira in March 2009.
“(U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon) calls on the military and political leadership … to resolve differences by peaceful means and to maintain constitutional order and ensure respect for the rule of law,” Ban’s office said in a statement.
Yet Gomes Junior’s political future remained in question after the new armed forces chief issuing a stark warning to him and supporters who had protested against his temporary detention by the soldiers behind the command grab on Thursday.
“If the demonstrators do not leave the streets, I will kill them all, and I will kill Carlos Gomes Junior,” General Antonio Njai told a news conference shortly after former armed forces chief of staff Admiral Jose Zamora Induta was arrested.
FORMER COUP SUSPECT
The core of the grievances between Njai and Gomes was not clear in a country where the army — which credits itself with a decisive role in wresting independence from Portuguese in 1974 — has long jostled for power with civilian leaders.
But a Western diplomat in the capital said it was linked to a simultaneous incident on Thursday in which soldiers entered a U.N. compound in the capital and emerged with the chief suspect in a failed 2008 coup bid who had sought refuge there.
The suspect, former navy chief Bubo Na Tchuto, is an ally of Njai and was due to be handed over to Gomes’s government. Na Tchuto was by Njai’s side at the news conference on Thursday.
The instability in Guinea-Bissau, whose meagre $400 million-a-year formal economy is based on cashews and phosphates, has not tended to spill over to neighbouring Senegal or its equally unstable larger neighbour Guinea.
But it has become a hub for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Latin American cocaine trafficked into Europe, and U.S. officials had raised concerns of it becoming a “narco-state” comparable to Afghanistan under its former Taliban rulers.