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Ivory Coast Police Stop Protesters' Advance


Police in Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan, have kept protesters from marching towards the offices of the nation's prime minister to demand his resignation. But members of the so-called Young Patriots say they will continue demonstrating until the government forces northern-based rebels disarm.

In the Abidjan suburb of Abobo, young men gathered in small groups on the streets under the watchful gaze of armed policemen.

Guillaume Zokou says he and the Young Patriots are prepared to go to war against the New Forces rebels and that they will march on their northern stronghold of Bouake if need be.

On Friday, rebels refused to begin the process of disarmament as called for in the latest peace deal, saying political reforms have not been fully implemented.

But police kept the protesters from going towards the offices of Prime Minister Seydou Diarra - and they are angry, determined the try again.

Meanwhile in downtown Abidjan, business appeared normal. But in a public square known as La Sorbonne where activists gather regularly, the mood was tense.

Clement Nado, the leader of a group of protesters called the Sorbonne Patriots, says they are tired and cannot wait for peace. He also accused the rebels of prolonging the war and the suffering of the Ivorian people.

Mr. Nado warned that protesters are giving the prime minister until Wednesday to step down. He says they are ready to engage in more serious public demonstrations and, the next time, they will not be intimidated by the police.

Ivory Coast's former colonial power, France, has called on all sides to stick to the peace process, including deals made on disarmament and the implemention of political reforms. France supports the prime minister, who was appointed in January as 2003 as part of a French-brokered agreement to form a government of national unity.

There are more than 4,000 French soldiers and some 6,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast monitoring a cease-fire that has held since last year.

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