- Title: IVORY COAST/FILE: Ivorian rebels snub Gbagbo bid to bypass peace plan
- Date: 4th January 2007
- Summary: (AD1) ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (JANUARY 2, 2007) (REUTERS) TRAFFIC ON THE ROAD
- Embargoed: 19th January 2007 12:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVADT8VE4MG66ZNHWU7OY7FKY4KW
- Story Text: Ivory Coast's northern-based New Forces rebels on Monday (January 1) rejected a bid by President Laurent Gbagbo to bypass a U.N.-backed peace plan and hold direct talks with them.
Gbagbo announced his own plans on December 19 to end the partition of the cocoa-growing country after a 20002/03 civil war, including direct talks with the rebels, in what was widely interpreted as a further snub to the U.N.-backed process.
But in a New Year's statement on Monday (January 1), New Forces leader Guillaume Soro made clear that any talks would have to follow the process laid out by U.N. Security Council resolution 1721, adopted in November, which hands broad control of reunification and organising delayed elections to an interim prime minister.
"Nobody has the right to refuse dialogue and cooperation in the pursuit of peace. All the same, this dialogue can not be envisaged outside resolution 1721. So it seems to me to be urgent that all participate to fully enact this resolution," Soro said in a statement distributed by the rebels in Bouake.
This followed a statement made by President Laurent Gbagbo in his New Years' message on Sunday.
"It's important that further to a global dialogue, that we also establish a particular and specific dialogue with those who have taken to the arms. That's why I ask the international community, and in particular our neighbouring countries to help in establishing and the success of such a dialogue," he said in a televised message.
Soro noted Gbagbo had asked President Blaise Compaore of neighbouring Burkina Faso to help mediate direct talks with the rebels, but said that contrary to some media reports, no such talks had taken place.
Resolution 1721 approved a further 12-month delay to a presidential election originally due in October 2005 but postponed because the country was split into the rebel-held north and government-controlled south, as it still is.
Residents of Abidjan want peace at all cost, and they would like the state as well as the New Forces to do whatever is needed to bring positive change.
"Anyway, we wish a dialogue between the two, so that they will bring us peace. Today we need peace, it doesn't matter if we get peace through the constitution, or other accords bring us the peace, what's essential is that Ivorians need the peace, because today everything is at bottom level here," said Roland Oulai.
"From the beginning we have not been happy with the situation on certain levels, and today the situation perpetuates, and we see that we can't find a solution, so it is better if the Ivorians can find a solution between them. It shouldn't be two opposed camps, so we refuse what the chief of state says, or if the New Forces say something else we also refuse that," said another Abidjan resident Fofana Lancine.
The U.N.-backed resolution extended the term of interim consensus Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, a central banker, and strengthened his powers to arrange disarmament of former fighters, a national identification campaign and other steps towards reunification and elections now due by Oct. 31, 2007.
But in a statement on national television, on Dec.19 Gbagbo had said: "My first proposition is to start a direct dialogue with the rebellion with a view to disarmament and reunification."
The U.N. Security Council voiced "grave concern" on Dec. 21 at delays in the peace process and said Banny must be able to freely exercise his powers without hindrance, in an apparent swipe at Gbagbo and the home-grown peace plan he had launched two days earlier.
U.N. peacekeepers backed by forces from former colonial power France patrol a buffer zone between the two sides, but international mediation efforts have foundered amid bickering between Gbagbo's government, the rebels and political parties.
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