Access Permissions to a sharepoint publiching site are different from the Team site.
Irrespective of whatever site access persmissions given to a publishing site, user can not see the pages until he/she are given at least 'read' permission to the 'masterpage' gallery.
So, even a full control user to the whole site, if not added to the 'master page' gallery, gets access denied error.
Adding a user to the master page gallery:
Site Actions -> Manage Content and Structure -> mouse hover on the masterpage gallery -> context menu -> Edit -> Properties -> Permissions for this gallery -> New.
If the user is a visitor, allow read permissions on the masterpage gallery.
IF the user can create the publishing pages, allow the 'Designer' access.
If the user can delete the gallery items, allow full control.