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Guinea Unions Cancel Planned Talks With Government

Union leaders in Guinea say they have canceled talks with the government until martial law is lifted. Meanwhile, the West-African regional grouping, ECOWAS, has sent a high-level delegation to Guinea, to help resolve the crisis there. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA from Abuja, the ECOWAS team is led by a former Nigerian military ruler.

The three-man team is led by Nigeria's former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, and includes Mohammed Ibn Chambas, president of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States.

ECOWAS spokesperson Adrienne Diouf says the delegation wants to meet with all sides and assess the situation in Guinea.

"They first have to get there and see what is happening, talk to everybody, and, from there, something will come out," she said. "We can't know right now, what will be the recommendation or outcome of that meeting. They first have to assess the situation and discuss with everybody and propose solutions for a way out."

Guinean President Lansana Conte has declared martial law and 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, when unions announced a general strike to protest widespread poverty and alleged corruption.

Diouf says West Africa leaders are very troubled by the worsening crisis.

"And we have issued a communiqué saying President Conte should implement the agreement he reached. He didn't nominate the person everybody had hoped will be nominated," she said.

The protests flared again this month when unions accused President Conte of not living up to a deal to name an independent politician to fill the vacant prime minister's post.

The opposition strike and military crackdown have crippled economic activities in the West African country, prompting food shortages in major cities.