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THE WORLD

Ivorian Rebels Pull Out of Talks

January 11, 2003|From Associated Press

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Rebels fighting in western Ivory Coast pulled out of French-brokered Paris peace talks Friday, charging that loyalist forces and their mercenary fighters had attacked twice in two days despite a cease-fire agreement.

Rebel leader Guillaume Gbatto said the attacks by government forces and foreign allies occurred in the far west of the country near Liberia.

Ivorians fleeing the fighting have reported that former combatants from wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone are pouring into the country to fight alongside the rebels.

Liberian fighters are easily identified in Francophone Ivory Coast because they speak English. During Liberia's 1989-96 civil war, fighters hacked hands off civilians, raped women and murdered civilians.

Sierra Leone's comparably vicious civil war ended in 2001 -- but as in Liberia, the gunmen are still around.

The western rebels -- the Ivorian Popular Movement of the Far West -- also said they had been betrayed by France, which this week won promises from all sides in the nearly four-month conflict to suspend hostilities and participate in the Paris talks next week.

The rebel pullout came just a day before insurgents were to sign a formal cease-fire as a prelude to the Paris talks.

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