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Guinea Union Leaders in Talks with President to End Strike

Union leaders in Guinea are negotiating with President Lansana Conte on terms for ending a two-week strike that has paralyzed the country and led to violent clashes with police. The president agreed Friday to delegate significant powers to a new prime minister, one of the unions' key demands. Phuong Tran reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Secretary-General of the National Council of Guinean Workers Ibrahima Fofana is welcoming the president's promise to appoint a prime minister with decision-making powers, including the power to appoint and fire ministers.

Guinea has not had a prime minister since last April, when the president fired Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo.

Union leader Fofana says that, since the union's main condition appears to have been met, he is hopeful about Saturday's negotiations with the president.

But he says that there are other issues that still need to be resolved, before union leaders end the strike, and that the outcome is still not clear.

The strike began January 10, to protest spiraling inflation, unemployment, utility shortages and a weak currency, which have fueled anger over Mr. Conte's 23-year rule.

Violence between police and strikers has killed at least 60 people. Most of them were shot by security forces in the capital, Conakry, on Monday.

Relief workers say a continued strike would cut them off from medical supplies, and that soaring prices for basic goods like rice are crippling already poor residents.