Conté has had the difficult prospect of conducting foreign policy in the shadow of his internationally recognized predecessor. While he tends to fare badly in comparisons with Sékou Touré, he nonetheless has had a measure of success in exerting influence in subregional affairs, and in gaining the respect and backing of foreign donors. Under Conté, Guinea has participated in Economic Community of West African States Military Observer Group (ECOMOG) peacekeeping operations and joined Senegal in supporting former president João Bernardo Vieira militarily in Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is a member of the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Mano River Union (an organization for economic cooperation between Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea).
In one major departure from Sékou Touré, Conté has sought far greater cooperation with the West, and his visit in 1989 to Paris set into motion a gradual improvement in Franco-Guinean relations, including a visit to Conakry in July 1999 by President Jacques Chirac. Guinea is a member of the French-sponsored Francophonie Association, and France ranks first in bilateral aid to Guinea. Nevertheless, for historical reasons Guinea is the only former French colony in West Africa outside the CFA franc zone.
Unrest in neighboring Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire is a cause for concern in Guinea. There were some 100,000 refugees in southeastern Guinea at the end of 2002. Hundreds of crossborder attacks from 1999 to 2001 by the Sierra Leone People's Army, a splinter group of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and by dissidents supported by Charles Taylor's Liberian army make for unsettling conditions along the southern border. No love is lost between Conté and Taylor, who has accused Guinea of providing safe haven to Liberian dissidents. Successful elections in Sierra Leone in May 2002 have dissipated hostilities between Conté and President Kabbah. Because of Conté's declining health, foreign minister Francois Fall represented Guinea at the Franco-African summit in Paris in February 2003. Given the unsettled state of affairs in Liberia and in Côte d'Ivoire, a stable and secure Guinea is of great importance to subregional policy makers.
In March 2003, Guinea gained the world spotlight when the United States sought its vote in the UN Security Council to authorize war against Iraq, but was rebuffed.