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Peace Deal Reportedly Reached to End Four-Month Ivory Coast War

January 24, 2003|From Reuters

PARIS — Rival Ivory Coast factions agreed today on a package of peace proposals to end a four-month civil war, sources close to the talks near here said.

The agreement -- which is expected to be approved by a summit of West African leaders this weekend in the French capital -- came as the Ivorian government accused neighboring Liberia of aiding the rebels.

"It has been signed. Everyone has signed it," said a delegate at the talks who declined to be named. Another source close to the talks also said a peace plan had been accepted.

A copy of the plan carried the signatures of representatives of all the Ivorian political parties and rebel groups at the talks, including those from President Laurent Gbagbo's ruling Ivorian Popular Front.

The plan calls for a new government of national reconciliation to be led by a prime minister chosen by wide consensus.

Agreed upon after nine days of private talks, the plan also calls on a future government to set dates for "credible and transparent" elections and to organize the disarmament of fighting forces.

All parties to the talks -- including opposition parties and rebel factions -- will be included in the new government, it said.

Participants earlier said rebel chiefs and opposition parties who dispute Gbagbo's 2000 election had made a proposal under which Gbagbo could remain in office if he agreed to a premier from outside his party.

"This government of national reconciliation will be led by a prime minister of consensus who will stay in place until the next presidential election, at which he will not be able to stand," the plan said.

It did not specifically refer to Gbagbo's future role, but participants indicated beforehand that his position would not be challenged if he agreed to a national unity government.

The talks did not appear to be affected by the Ivorian army's accusation that Liberia was involved in a rebel attack Wednesday on the western Ivorian town of Toulepleu. Liberia said its regular forces were not involved.

Former colonial power France has about 2,500 troops in Ivory Coast upholding a shaky cease-fire and protecting a large expatriate community.

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