News and Information

Mbeki pushes Ivory Coast peace
December 16, 2004
Former rebels in Ivory Coast are set to discuss new peace proposals with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

President Mbeki, who is mediating in the two-year conflict for the African Union, has secured a new timetable to carry out disarmament and reforms.

A parliamentary committee is reported to have recommended the adoption of a key part of these reforms - a controversial nationality bill.

UN peacekeepers have asked for an extra 1,000 troops to help maintain order.

Ivory Coast has been in crisis since rebel soldiers grabbed the north of the country in September 2002.

'Loser regime'

Last month the Ivorian armed forces launched an attack on the rebel-held north of the country, breaking an 18-month-old ceasefire.

There was also days of turbulence in the government-held south.

Map of Ivory Coast
UN peacekeepers were involved in operations to evacuate thousands of westerners.

The rebels, now known as the New Forces, say they will propose "free and transparent elections and not one to keep in power... a loser regime... while keeping in mind that [President Laurent] Gbagbo has breached the ceasefire," said their spokesman Sidike Konate.

The AFP news agency reports that the new nationality bill, a key rebel demand, has been adopted by a parliamentary committee and is expected to be adopted on Friday.

This makes it easier for those of foreign origin to become Ivory Coast citizens and AFP says it will apply to some 700,000 people.

The rebels control the north, where many people have foreign roots and say Mr Gbagbo's government has discriminated against them.

A UN official in the country told the BBC he expected the security council to grant the request for extra troops to reinforce the 10,000 peacekeepers already in Ivory Coast.

These include some 4,000 French troops, who have recently clashed with Gbagbo loyalists in the main city, Abidjan.

The UN Security Council is also considering whether to impose individual sanctions on those seen to be blocking the peace process.

Last month, an arms embargo was put in place, affecting both the government and the rebels.


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