- Former Guinean prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo urged ECOWAS not to impose sanctions on Guinea.
- He said the coup was the only option left to end a "lawless" regime.
- Junta leader Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya seized power and arrested President Alpha Conde.
A leading figure in Guinea's opposition on Saturday urged regional bloc ECOWAS not to impose economic sanctions on Guinea's new military regime, describing the recent coup as a "welcome development".
"The junta does not deserve to be sanctioned because it put an end to a situation of lawlessness," said former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo.
Diallo, who ran unsuccessfully against the deposed leader Alpha Conde three times in successive presidential elections, said there were no other options left but a coup.
Guinea's ruling military has been coming under growing diplomatic pressure after special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya seized power last Sunday and arrested Conde.
ECOWAS suspended Guinea on Wednesday, and on Friday, the African Union (AU) followed suit.
Dozens of opposition activists arrested
ECOWAS has suspended a decision on economic sanctions until it gets a report from a fact-finding mission sent to Guinea.
But Diallo said: "The involvement of the army to end an illegal and illegitimate mandate was for me a welcome decision."
He maintains that Conde cheated him out of the presidency in the 2020 election.
Conde, 83, had come under increasing fire for perceived authoritarianism, with dozens of opposition activists arrested after last year's violently disputed election.
But the putsch in Guinea has sparked fears of democratic backsliding across West Africa - where military strongmen are an increasingly familiar sight.
It has drawn parallels with its neighbour Mali: the Sahel state has suffered two coups since August 2020 led by Colonel Assimi Goita, who was also a special forces commander.
But defending the Guinea coup, Diallo argued: "Practically speaking, there was no longer any other recourse.
"If (the junta) is really committed to moving toward constitutional order by organising free and transparent elections in a reasonable time I don't think it's necessary to sanction them," he said.
Guinea's putschists have formed a junta named the CNRD, which has dissolved the government - and the controversial new constitution that Conde pushed through to allow to run for a third term.
But they have also promised form a "government of national union" to oversee a political transition.
In Mali, ECOWAS initially objected to the military regime there overseeing a move to transitional rule after the army seized power there. But they remain in power, and doubts are growing about their commitment to February 2022 elections.
In Chad, when Idriss Deby Itno died in battle in April, his son seized power at the head of a military junta.
Neither ECOWAS nor the African Union had been able to impose an immediate move to civilian rule.
In those circumstances, said Diallo, neither organisation is well placed to impose terms on the Guinea regime.
"It's very difficult to want to impose on Colonel Doumbouya a civilian president - but it would be desirable that the prime minister was a civilian," he added.
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