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Guinea's Conte to Name Prime Minister

Guinea's President Lansana Conte has agreed to name in the near future a consensus prime minister to help end a deadly nationwide protest. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

The announcement was made late Wednesday after a meeting between Mr. Conte and union leaders, mediated by religious leaders.

One pastor said the president is ready to listen to the people of Guinea, and that a credible candidate for prime minister must be found.

There has been no prime minister since the last one was fired last April.

Union leaders had previously called on Mr. Conte himself to resign, but some of them backed off from that demand after violent protests Monday resulted in dozens of deaths.

The strike began January 10 after Mr. Conte freed two of his allies from jail.

A regional human rights observer, Patrick Ngouan, says he hopes an agreement will also lead to a reform of Guinea's security forces so that they will protect all people, not just the president.

"[Guinea's] security forces have a habit of an education of non-democracy," he said. "It is a heritage of the old party and the situation is nowadays the same as for a unique party. The forces, they must be republican forces, not forces which serve the power of the old Lansana Conte."

Witnesses says Mr. Conte's own son led some of the security forces in Monday's bloody crackdown on protesters in the capital Conakry. The government refused to comment on reports the troops used live ammunition to suppress the protest, and the president's son denied he was in Conakry.

United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour has called for an independent investigation of what took place.

The ailing President Conte has been in power since a coup 23 years ago.

In recent years in Guinea, prices for staple goods have skyrocketed while government services have crumbled.