Guinea's trade unions say they are waiting for a response to their demand that President Lansana Conte hand over power and create a new national unity government. That is one of several conditions labor groups say must be met or else they will intensify a general strike that has paralyzed the country since last week. For VOA, Jordan Davis reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Union leaders met with Muslim religious leaders in the capital Conakry, hoping to gain their support.

Strike leaders say if the work stoppage is not settled by Thursday, they will extend the strike to the mining sector. Guinea is the world's largest exporter of bauxite, a key source of aluminum. The industry is critical to the country's economy.

Strike organizers have also threatened to organize mass demonstrations.

The capital Conakry is largely quiet. Officials in the capital have banned public demonstrations and stepped up police patrols. Dozens of people in the city's suburbs have been arrested in recent days following sporadic clashes with security forces.

In a list of written conditions addressed to President Lansana Conte late Monday, unions urged the leader set up a new government led by a civilian prime minister.

Mr. Conte is in his seventies and in ill health. After a number of government reorganizations in the past year, many observers say he is becoming increasingly erratic.

Lansana Conte is no longer able to handle his responsibilities as president, says Alioune Tine with a Dakar-based human rights association known as RADDHO.

Labor groups called the strike to protest alleged corruption after the president personally visited a jail to free two political allies held in a corruption investigation.

Unions are also calling for the government to stop spiraling inflation. Life for ordinary Guineans has become increasingly difficult because salaries have not kept up with the rising price of basic goods.

The strike is the third in a little more than a year. The work stoppage was called by the country's main unions, representing most private and public sector workers.

Since Wednesday, government offices, banks and shops in major cities across the country have shut down.

Guinea was ranked the most corrupt African country in a 2006 survey by Berlin-based Transparency International.