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US Calls on Guinea to Lift Martial Law

The United States says it is deeply concerned over the crisis in Guinea following weeks of deadly protests and the imposition of martial law.

The U.S. Embassy in Conakry urged Guinea's government to end the state of emergency and to restore basic freedoms.

Guinean President Lansana Conte has given the military broad powers to end anti-government protests. More than 100 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters since January.

African leaders meeting in France Friday expressed concern at what they called the large number of innocent victims in the West African country.

Union and government representatives in Guinea say they plan to meet again Saturday in an effort to end the crisis. The sides held a two-hour meeting Thursday without reaching any agreements.

Some union leaders have refused to negotiate unless President Conte ends the state of emergency announced last Monday.

Residents of Conakry say soldiers are exploiting martial law to beat ordinary Guineans and rob their homes. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says security forces are using martial law to, in its words, "terrorize" ordinary Guineans.

The unrest in Guinea began in early January when unions announced a general strike to protest widespread poverty and alleged corruption.

Union leaders who oppose President Conte have called repeatedly on him to step down. Mr. Conte has ruled Guinea since taking power in a 1984 coup.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.