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Ivorian Army Rejects Accord

The peace deal would allow rebels into the government and force factions to demobilize. Protests and street battles continue.

January 29, 2003|From Times Wire Services

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — The army rejected key aspects of a French-brokered peace deal Tuesday as protests paralyzed Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city, for a fourth day and Christians and Muslims fought deadly street battles elsewhere in the West African nation.

Thousands of government loyalists surrounded the U.S. Embassy in the commercial capital, demanding that Washington press President Laurent Gbagbo to back out of the deal.

But France, the country's former colonial ruler, and rebels repeated demands for Gbagbo to implement the accord, which is meant to bring the rebels into the government to end four months of war.

Army leaders wrote to Gbagbo on Tuesday refusing to accept rebel ministers or to demobilize -- as all forces are bound to under the deal, reached last week near Paris.

"Rather than contribute to a quest for peace, the ... accord carries within it the germs of a national implosion," said the letter, which was made available to foreign media.

Ano Nianzou, a government spokesman, said many Ivorians "cannot accept that rebels who seized power by chance and who killed many people [may] occupy the ministries of the interior and defense."

Ivory Coast is waiting anxiously for Gbagbo to announce what the accords -- which he has described as "proposals" -- will mean in practice. The exact provisions have not been spelled out publicly.

The deal has been seen as favorable to the rebels. It has set off violent protests in Abidjan and sparked deadly clashes in the town of Agboville between local Christians and Muslims from the rebel-held north. Government security forces have done little to quell the violence.

Growing bitterness between the south, which is mainly loyal to Gbagbo, and the north is at the root of a conflict that has torn apart the once-stable country since a failed coup Sept. 19. Hundreds of people have been killed.

The rebels accuse Gbagbo of fanning discrimination against northerners and immigrants, who make up a quarter of the country's 16 million residents.

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