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Bolivia’s Morales calls for talks with the pope amid unrest

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Saturday called for "urgent" talks with the opposition amid ongoing unrest in the country, also asking the pope to join.

"To preserve peace in our beloved Bolivia, I urgently call for talks with representatives of parties who have won seats in the elections," Morales tweeted late on Saturday.

He also called on the pope, human rights defenders and international organizations to "accompany our complaint against anti-democratic groups that have launched a coup in Bolivia."

The call comes a day after Morales claimed that violent groups launched a "coup d'etat" as a police mutiny was reported in several regions.

The Andean country has seen weeks of protests and rioting against alleged fraud in Bolivia's presidential election on Oct. 20. Three people have been killed and more than 300 injured.

The electoral authority stopped publishing preliminary results when they pointed to a run-off between Morales, a leftist, and his center-right challenger Carlos Mesa. Morales was later declared winner in the first round.

Mesa rejected Morales' call for a dialogue and called his claim that a coup was under way "a gigantic lie."

"Not only is a coup not under way, what you have is a whole country ... demanding the protection of the vote," Mesa said in a video posted on Twitter.

"I have nothing to negotiate with Evo Morales," he said, while accusing Morales of committing "electoral fraud" and calling again for a new vote.

On Friday, Bolivia's electoral tribunal denied that vote count irregularities had been discovered in the poll.

Meanwhile the Bolivian army, speaking for the first time since the election, said on Saturday it would not "confront" civilians.

"We confirm that we are never going to confront the people," Bolivia's army Chief Commander Willams Kaliman said in a televised address.

"The current problems, born in the political sphere, need to be solved in the same framework ... to avoid reaching a point of no return," he added.

The statement came after the Bolivian government said that opposition leader Fernando Camacho "publicly confirmed his call to interrupt the constitutional order, asking the Armed Forces and National Police to repudiate the government and calling for the resignation of President Evo Morales Ayma."

"On November 8, some of the country's police groups retreated to their police units, abandoning their responsibility to ensure the safety of society and state institutions," a Bolivian government statement said on Saturday.

According to daily La Razon, various police units in at least four regions rebelled against the government.

Morales, who has rejected calls for him to resign, is Bolivia's first indigenous and longest-serving president, and previously won three mandates in first election rounds.

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