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Union Leaders in Guinea Lift Strike Over PM Promise


Union leaders in Guinea say they will lift a crippling strike, after a promise by long-time President Lansana Conte to name a new prime minister with expanded powers. The strike started in early January, and left more than 100 people dead, following several rounds of protests, looting and military repression. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar.

The agreement followed several days of mediation by former Nigerian President Ibrahim Babangida.

One union leader, Yamobou Toure, tells VOA he was very impressed by his work.

Toure says many Guineans had lost hope there would be any progress in long-stalled negotiations with the government, but that this was a significant breakthrough.

Toure said Monday would be a day of praying and mourning for those killed during the protest action, before a return to work Tuesday.

A political opposition leader, Mamadou Ba, was cautious.

He said this was a first step, an important step, but still just a first step.

He said Mr. Conte is well known for making promises and then breaking them.

Under the deal, Mr. Conte is to choose a new prime minister from a list of names that will be given to him by union, opposition and civil society leaders.

His last choice to be prime minister since the strike started, former presidential affairs minister, Eugene Camara, had been rejected.

The strike action started in January after Mr. Conte unilaterally freed two close allies who had been jailed as part of a corruption probe.

Last week, the ruling-party dominated parliament refused Mr. Conte's request to extend martial law, which had started following the last wave of angry anti-government protests.

Mr. Conte has been in power since a coup in 1984, despite his deteriorating health, grinding poverty in Guinea and crumbling government services.

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