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Guinea bans political protest during FIFA chief's visit

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea's government has banned an opposition demonstration scheduled for Thursday, saying the protest would interfere with a visit by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Opposition groups later said they would reluctantly abide by the decision, though police reported some young protesters had already started to gather in one central town and had thrown stones at officers.

The head of the world football governing body - wracked by a series of corruption scandals since 2010 - will make a two-day visit to Guinea as part of a four-country tour of Africa before Sunday's African Cup of Nations final.

"The demonstration by the opposition planned tomorrow has not been authorized because we are receiving FIFA President Sepp Blatter," said Guinea's Minister for Territorial Administration, Alassane Conde, on Wednesday. "If the opposition decides to continue with its march, the law will be applied."

Security forces in the mineral-rich West African country are notorious for crackdowns on protesters, with dozens wounded and several killed in sporadic clashes since contested presidential elections in 2010.

The opposition, which was seeking to protest against what it sees as flawed preparations for long-delayed parliamentary polls, said the government was using Blatter's visit as a pretext to stifle dissent.

After several hours of talks with the government, opposition leaders agreed to postpone their demonstrations until February 13.

"I personally do not agree with this decision but, as that is what the majority decided, I will follow it," said Sidya Toure, one of the main opposition leaders.

Youths set fire to tires and threw stones at police in the transport hub of Mamou, said authorities.

"The population took to the streets in anticipation of the protest planned for tomorrow but we succeeded in restoring calm," a police source told Reuters.

After being hit by a series of corruption scandals in 2010 and 2011, FIFA has reformed its ethics committee and set up an audit and compliance body to review financial accounting and carry out integrity checks.

On Monday, European anti-crime agency Europol said about 680 matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in an inquiry into match fixing by European police forces and national prosecutors.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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