Wed, Dec 08, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Ivory Coast officials agree to new timetable for peace

AP , ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST

Government and rebel officials in Ivory Coast have agreed on a new timetable to carry out a long-stalled peace plan in West Africa's economic hub, South African Pre-sident Thabo Mbeki announced.

Briefing reporters after a five-day peace mission in Ivory Coast, Mbeki said warring sides have settled on timing of disarmament, security reforms, and other divisive points.

"We've agreed with everybody on all these matters and ... the delegation has indicated the time frames for all of these things," Mbeki said Monday in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

The peace mission follows a three-day return to government attacks on the rebel-held north last month.

A first step will come in early January, Mbeki said, when Ivory Coast's national assembly will convene an emergency session to discuss a contentious constitutional requirement stipulating that any presidential candidate be a second-generation Ivorian.

Ivory Coast's southern-based government has used the requirement to bar a presidential run by an opposition leader with heavy support in the north, Alassane Ouattara, claiming his parents were not born in Ivory Coast.

Mbeki did not give dates for the other steps, including disarmament, or for the restarting of a power-sharing government that rebels have boycotted.

Ivory Coast has been split into rebel-held north and loyalist south since a September 2002 coup attempt propelled the world's largest cocoa grower into civil war.

Both sides have agreed to peace accords but failed to carry them out. President Laurent Gbagbo last month reopened attacks with airstrikes on the rebel-held north for three days, citing insurgents' failure to disarm.

A Nov. 6 airstrike killed nine French peacekeepers and a US aid worker, and prompted brief, unprecedented battles between Ivory Coast's forces and those of its former colonial ruler, France.

Mbeki, who has been mandated by the African Union to mediate, said he would make regular visits to Ivory Coast to see that both sides stick to their agreements.

Also Monday, the UN special envoy to Ivory Coast confirmed his resignation, citing his age of 75 and setbacks to the peace process.

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