Burkina general says ex-president Compaore not linked to coup

Members of the presidential guard look for protesters in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney

PARIS (Reuters) - Former president Blaise Compaore has no links to a coup in Burkina Faso, junta leader General Gilbert Diendere said on Thursday, suggesting the military acted due to the interim government's handling of the country and election process.

Diendere, who for three decades served as Compaore's chief military adviser and operated an intelligence network spanning West Africa, said he did not want to keep power and would hand it back to civilian rule when conditions were in place to do so.

"I've had no contact with him (Compaore) either before or after. I haven't called him and he hasn't called me," Diendere told France 24 television.

Elections were due to be held on Oct. 11 to conclude a transition back to democratic rule after Compaore was toppled by popular protests in October when he tried to extend his 27-year rule.

Diendere said he would need to speak to political parties and the international community in the coming hours to see how to proceed.

"All change of this type can lead to violence. I am conscious of that," he said. "Everything will be done to avoid violence that could plunge the country into chaos."

Diendere promised to release the interim president and prime minister, who were arrested by presidential guard soldiers on Wednesday. He said the coup had the full backing of the regular army and he pledged not to interfere in legal cases against Compaore and former members of his entourage.

"I call on the people to remain calm so that we can continue on the path to inclusive and democratic elections," he said.

"We know a coup is never accepted by the international community, but we ask it to understand the purpose of our action," he said. "We are committed to dialogue and accept certain principles of the international community."

Diendere said he did not want the country to be under military rule.

"We are not here to stay in power. As soon as conditions are there we will hand power back to (civilians). I have never done politics, I'm military. We're experiencing a special situation, but I don't do politics."

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Daniel Flynn)