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General Strike Paralyzes Guinea's Capital

Activity in Guinea's capital, Conakry, ground to a halt Thursday as most people appeared to heed an appeal by the country's two main unions to strike.

Local media reports say police armed with tear gas lined the city's streets, but that the situation remained calm. Witnesses say the capital's streets were deserted, with most banks, businesses, schools and taxi and bus service shut down.

Reuters news agency reports that Guinea's bauxite production continued as normal, although bauxite workers planned to meet to decide whether to strike. The west African country is the world's largest supplier of bauxite for aluminum production.

The trade unions, the National Confederation of Guinea Workers and the Public Service Union of Guinea, said the strike is designed to protest declining living conditions and high gas and commodity prices. They called for Guineans to strike indefinitely until the government meets its demands, including cutting prices for gas and rice.

Guinea was once seen as an island of stability among its troubled neighbors of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. But it appears increasingly unstable. Guinea's President Lansana Conte has been ill and has no apparent successor.

Earlier this year, the unions staged a five-day strike, which was observed by a large part of the population.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP