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Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Guinea union leaders released

The strikers want the president to resign

Union leaders in Guinea have met President Lansana Conte after being released following the worst violence so far in a two-week general strike.

A heavy security presence is reported in the capital, Conakry, and other towns following Monday's clashes in which more than 30 people were killed.

The government announced an inquiry into the violence after the talks. The strike is the third in the last year.

The strikers say President Conte is too sick to govern and want him to resign.

They also accuse Mr Conte, who is his 70s and suffers from diabetes, of mismanaging the economy and personally securing the release from prison of two men accused of corruption.

'Overwhelmed'

"We were released yesterday (Monday) at 2200 and were taken to the home of the president, in the Samory camp to meet with Conte," Rabiatou Serah Diallo of the National Confederation of Guinean Workers told AFP news agency.

Map of Guinea

She said the president registered his displeasure about their arrest.

"We will not close the door to negotiations," she said.

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah in the capital said the first lady Harriette Conte helped to negotiate their release from custody.

With the heavy deployment of the military and police the capital is reported to be quiet.

But in the towns of Dabola and Kundara several thousand people again marched on the streets calling on the president to step down.

Late on Monday night, the government announced that they would hold an inquiry into the violence when demonstrators heading for parliament got into running battles with the police in Conakry.

Negotiation doubts

The United Nations and the African Union have both condemned the violent response to the demonstrations and have called for dialogue to end the crisis.

Angry protester
The strikers were prevented from reaching the city centre

Regional presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria are expected to go to Guinea to try and mediate.

But our correspondent say there are now doubts about whether they will be allowed into the country.

A civil society leader Ben Sekou Sylla told the BBC French Service that he believed troops from neighbouring Guinea-Bissau were in the country helping the military.

There has been no independent confirmation of his allegations but analysts say Guinea-Bissau's President Joao Bernardo Vieira is a long-time ally of Mr Conte.

On Saturday, Mr Conte made a speech on television, asking for the support of the people and the army.

Mr Conte seized power in a 1984 coup but has since won three elections.

Food prices are said to have risen sharply in Conakry, with shortages of staple foods including rice and bread.

video and audio news
Violence on the streets of Guinea's capital



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