Conte has called for citizens and the army to unite behind him.

 

But the strike, launched by union leaders who say the reclusive, diabetic president in his 70s is unfit to rule, has continued.

 

Bauxite trains halted

 

Operators tried to get the bauxite export train working on Sunday, but were prevented from doing so by union members, an official said.

 

The train carrying bauxite from the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG) mine at Sangaredi for shipping from the port of Kamsar, northwest of Conakry, was halted late last week, when an official said ship loading operations had been slowed down.

 

A CBG official at Sangaredi said: "Since the stoppage all activity is blocked. Yesterday they [the drivers] tried to get the train going, but they met a firm refusal from unionists."

 

An official at the mine said that stockpiles at Kamsar port might run out in a week without new bauxite deliveries by train.

 

A spokesman for US aluminium maker Alcoa, which runs the operation, said it was too early to evaluate the effect on output.

 

Guinea's government holds 49 per cent of CBG, which produces just over 14 million tonnes of wet bauxite a year from its mine in the northwest Boke region.

 

CBG exports about 13 million tonnes of dried bauxite per year, which contributes to Guinea being the world's biggest exporter of bauxite, from which aluminium is smelted.

 

Stoning

 

At the weekend, youths started stoning a train as it made its way through the outskirts of Conakry to deliver alumina to the city's port.

 

"Youths attacked our train drivers with rocks and missiles," said one employee.

 

"This is a very delicate situation because if the factory halts it will not be able to provide electricity or water to the town of Fria, and we will not be able to treat the chemicals coming out of the factory – apart from the serious blow to the Guinean economy."

 

Fria, which opened in 1960, produces around 700,000 tonnes of alumina a year.

 

In an interview with a Guinea news agency in October 2006, Lansana Conté said that he intends to stay as president until 2010, the end of his seven-year term.