Guinea's government said it has delayed a plan to revise the country's voter lists, potentially paving the way for talks with the opposition after deadly riots over preparations for an upcoming legislative poll.
The move, which the government blamed on delays in shipments of needed materials, calls into question whether the West African state will be able to hold the elections before the end of this year as donor nations have urged.
"Due to delays in receiving materials from South Africa needed to revise the voter lists, the start of the voter list revision process initially set to begin October 5 has been moved to a new date to be decided by the Electoral Commission president," the commission announced on state television late on Tuesday.
The opposition welcomed the announcement as a possible concession aimed at opening up talks after a rift over election preparations triggered deadly street riots.
At least three people were killed and hundreds arrested in clashes with security forces in the seaside capital Conakry last week after the opposition called supporters into the streets to oppose the organisation of "a mock poll."
Guinea's opposition figures have accused President Alpha Conde, elected by a narrow margin late last year, of failing to consult them about the preparations for the election, and said he may be seeking to tamper with voter lists to ensure his party wins a majority in the legislature.
"This is a reversal that we take note of, but we are still waiting for our demands to be met, particularly the release of supporters arrested last week and the end to abuses. From there we can start talks," opposition spokesman Mouctar Diallo told Reuters on Wednesday.
The electoral commission has proposed holding the election December 29, but the government has yet to ratify the date and the opposition has rejected it. Following the riots Conde said he was renewing an offer to hold talks.
The European Union has said it will only resume full cooperation with the West African state after the polls, potentially unblocking aid worth millions of dollars for an impoverished country with crumbling infrastructure.
Guinea's presidential elections last year ended nearly two years of chaotic military junta rule and were meant to close the book on decades of brutal authoritarian leadership.
The West African state is the world's top supplier of the aluminum ore bauxite and its iron ore riches have drawn billions of dollars in planned new investment from companies like Rio Tinto and Vale.