A day after overthrowing the government, coup leaders opened talks with political parties Wednesday and invited the imprisoned president to help form a ruling junta.
Military sources said they hoped the junta would last only 90 days. Then general elections would be held.Lt. Fernando Sousa da Ponte, spokesman for the coup's leaders, had originally indicated political parties would be banned. But faced with international condemnation and threats of aid cutoffs by the United States and the European Union, the rebel soldiers appeared to be softening their stance.
Coup leaders Lt. Manuel Quintas de Almeida and Lt. Jus-tino Lima began talks in the defense ministry with the representatives of Sao Tome's six political parties. First to arrive was Prime Minister Carlos Graca, who had already declined an invitation to join the junta.
A statement issued by Quintas de Almeida said the army seized power because "the country has become ungovernable." The statement blamed "opportunism and ego-tism" of politicians.
Miguel Trovoada, the islands' first freely elected president, was imprisoned at the main military bar-racks. Trovoada also refused to join a junta, insisting he was still legally head of state, sources close to him said.
The rebel soldiers stormed the presidential palace before dawn Tuesday, killing one presidential guard. They seized Trovoada, disbanded Parliament and suspended the 4-year-old democratic constitution.
Graca was placed under house arrest, and other Cabinet ministers went into hiding.