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Nigerian Unions End Strike Before Bush Visit

Nigeria's (search) main trade unions accepted a government compromise on fuel prices and ended a crippling eight-day strike, union officials said Tuesday.

An umbrella group of unions met into the early hours of the morning to consider the government offer to reduce gasoline prices from $1.18 a gallon, to about $1 a gallon.

"Given the suffering and deprivation Nigerians have contended with in the last few days, the Nigerian Labor Congress (search) has a compelling duty to avail the people some relief by suspending the strike," union president Adams Oshiomhole (search) said in a statement.

The Trade Union Congress (search), a collection of administrative workers' unions that pulled out of the strike on Sunday, also accepted the deal.

President Olusegun Obasanjo (search) was relieved the strike was over, said spokeswoman Remi Oyo.

"The President is happy people can now go about their normal business," she told reporters before Obasanjo left for Mozambique to attend an African Union summit.

The government says a rise in fuel prices is necessary to end shortages and curb the smuggling of cheap Nigerian fuel to neighboring countries. Despite the country's great petroleum resources, most of Nigeria's 126 million people are mired in desperate poverty.

The announcement of a deal came just days before President Bush visits Nigeria during a five-day, five-nation African tour.

Violent clashes broke out Monday among police and protesters in Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, as supporters of the strike took to the streets to prevent people from going back to work.

Rioters smashed windshields, lit bonfires and attacked buses. Police in riot gear fired tear gas and bullets over their heads to disperse the crowds.

Oshiomhole said police shot dead at least 10 protesters — a charge denied by police, who said they had no information on any casualties. A Nigerian television station broadcast pictures of three bodies lying in the streets.

Besides the protesters, streets were largely deserted in Lagos and several other cities as the strike entered its eighth day Monday. Seaports, banks, major businesses and government offices remained closed in most of the country. Only some small shops, restaurants and a few schools reopened.