Guinean general strike ends

Guinean unions have called off a general strike that has crippled the nation and led to deadly clashes, after a deal was reached with the government.

Nearly 60 people have died in protests since the strike was called on 10 January to demand government reforms. President Lansana Conte agreed on Friday to cede some powers to a prime minister who would head the government. On Saturday the unions said the president's concessions were sufficient for them to end the strike.

"The union association has decided to suspend the strike this Saturday, 27 January, and invites all Guineans to return to work," said Ibrahima Fofana, leader of the USTG union. The deal reached on Saturday also provided for a lowering of fuel and rice prices, Reuters reported.

Since he sacked the last prime minister in April 2006, Mr Conte has combined the roles of head of state and head of government. But after long negotiations on Friday he agreed to appoint a new prime minister. No-one has yet been named for the position.

"He must be a civilian, he must be competent and honest, a patriot who loves Guinea and is prepared to serve it," said union leader Mr Fofana.

The president seized power in a 1984 coup but has since won three elections. The strikers accused Mr Conte, who is in his 70s and suffers from diabetes, of mismanaging the economy and personally securing the release from prison of two men accused of corruption.

This was the third general strike in a year. It turned very bloody last Monday, when officials say 49 people were killed in the capital, Conakry.