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Guinea opposition agrees to meet with president amid protests

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CONAKRY, May 5 (Reuters) - The head of Guinea's political opposition will meet with President Alpha Conde in an effort to ease tensions following weeks of violent clashes between protesters and security forces, an opposition spokesman said on Tuesday.

Conde issued a formal invitation to opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, according to a senior government official, following protests in the West African nation's capital Conakry and several other towns on Monday over the timing of elections.

The opposition has rejected previous overtures from Conde calling for a return to dialogue, but spokesman Aboubacar Sylla said Diallo would meet with Conde.

"There's no reason why the head of the opposition wouldn't respond to an official invitation from the president to talk about questions of national interest," he told Reuters.

Sylla said the meeting, which the government official said would likely take place by the end of the week, would allow the opposition to gauge the government's goodwill.

Guinea's presidential election on Oct. 11, announced by the electoral commission in March, broke a 2013 agreement to stage long-delayed local polls first, the opposition says.

Analysts say holding local polls first would give President Alpha Conde's rivals more influence in organising the presidential election.

Fourteen people, including 12 security officers, were wounded during Monday's protests, according to the government.

The opposition claimed on Tuesday that one protester had been beaten to death by the security forces during the demonstrations and around 20 others were wounded, including 10 who had been shot.

The demonstrations, which began in mid-April, have now left at least five people dead and many more injured, according to opposition leaders, who say security forces have fired live rounds during clashes.

The government says three have died and rejects accusations that shots have been fired at protesters. Authorities say police officers have been shot at during the demonstrations.

The opposition has called for further protests on Thursday and Monday. (Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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