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Almost 100,000 Protest Accord in Ivory Coast

February 02, 2003|From Associated Press

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Nearly 100,000 government supporters marched through Ivory Coast's main city Saturday, burning French flags and calling for the death of French President Jacques Chirac in the biggest protest yet against a French-brokered deal to end four months of civil strife.

Government supporters are angry about the prospect of sharing power with rebels, as envisioned in the accord. The protest in Abidjan came as West African leaders met with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in the city to try to salvage the pact.

Regional leaders have worried that the insurgency in Ivory Coast, once West Africa's most prosperous and stable nation, might erupt into full-scale war.

One day after a larger regional summit on the crisis, the presidents of Nigeria, Ghana and Togo spoke for more than two hours with Gbagbo but flew home without comment -- or any sign of having succeeded.

French citizens and other foreigners have been fleeing rampages in the former French colony. Demonstrators Saturday celebrated the exodus.

"Chirac is dead! Ivory Coast is free!" marchers cried. One man dragged an iron tub filled with palm leaves that he said represented "all the baggage the French will take as they leave Ivory Coast."

Unlike recent demonstrations, the march was peaceful.

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