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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 16:51 GMT
Guinea anger over dead strikers
Guinea's President Lansana Conte
President Conte seized power in a 1984 coup
The death of three protesters in Guinea has galvanised support for a national strike now in its ninth day.

A BBC correspondent says many thousands are demonstrating across the country, braving teargas and rubber bullets.

Workers who were initially striking over the high cost of living, now want the resignation of President Lansana Conte and his government.

But a minister says the government had fulfilled their demands by increasing salaries and cutting some taxes.

This is the third general strike in a year.

Mr Conte, who seized power in a 1984 coup and has since won three elections, is in his 70s and in poor health suffering from diabetes.

Bullet wounds

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah says some 5,000 demonstrators have taken to the streets in the capital, Conakry and tens of thousands are marching in regional towns.

We have the impression that the people are determined to obtain something concrete
Diplomat

Earlier this week, workers in bauxite mines - the country's main source of revenue - stopped work in support of the strike.

Our correspondent says two people are reported to have died from bullet wounds on Wednesday in Conakry.

Another person was killed in the town of Labe, the country's second city.

However, the police say they did not fire live rounds at the demonstrations.

Police spokesman Mamadi Mansare told state television that his men are on strict orders to disperse demonstrators by firing teargas.

'Death threat'

On Tuesday night, a presidential statement, read out by speaker of parliament on television, offered to cut fuel prices, increase teachers' salaries and tackle police corruption.

But union leaders rejected them, saying they wanted a new government.

They were then arrested, but later released.

Union leaders have accused the president of threatening to kill them.

"He threatened us with death, he insulted us," Ibrahima Fofana, head of the Guinean Workers' Union, told Reuters news agency.

Foreign minister Mamady Conde met foreign diplomats on Thursday morning in a closed-door session.

A communique released afterwards said: "The government is surprised at the actions of the unions vis-a-vis the government's efforts at satisfying their demands."

One diplomat, who asked not to be named, said the situation did not look hopeful.

"We don't feel we're heading for a quick end to this crisis. We have the impression that the people are determined to obtain something concrete... they don't want any more promises," they told Reuters.

The strikers were also angered at the alleged involvement of President Conte in securing the release of two men, including Guinea's richest man Mamadou Sylla, accused of corruption.

Last year, Guinea was ranked by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in Africa.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Guinea
09 Nov 04 |  Country profiles

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