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Mbeki Returns to Ivory Coast


South African President Thabo Mbeki is returning to strife-torn Ivory Coast today for a second attempt to revive failed peace efforts.

Mr. Mbeki is expected to meet Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo as well as reconciliation Prime Minister Seydou Diarra on Friday before meeting opposition leaders and rebels in the north.

His visit - scheduled to last several days - is being welcomed by all sides, including supporters of Mr. Gbagbo, such as the leader of the so-called Lady Patriots, Genevieve Bro Grebe. She says Ivorians need an African solution rather than the stalled French-brokered peace deal signed in a Paris suburb in January 2003.

"If we are trying to find a solution for our problem, we should find an African solution and we should find a solution here in Cote d'Ivoire not outside. I think we have the solution in our hands," Ms. Grebe says.

Mr. Mbeki himself has repeatedly expressed support for the so-called Linas-Marcoussis peace agreement.

Mr. Gbagbo's ruling party has been amending the peace agreement in parliament, which angered rebels and the opposition, who accuse him of blocking its implementation. One of the key provisions of the agreement expands the rights of many northerners who are now treated as second class citizens.

The vice-president of an opposition party, Boa Amoakon Tiemele, says he hopes South Africa's president can revive the reconciliation power-sharing government, which has been plagued by boycotts.

"We hope that in the trip of President Mbeki [he] will help us to find some compromise at the level of all the main items we are discussing, including the working of the government to move toward something smooth and capable to bring peace to the country. We hope to have some solution," Mr. Tiemele says.

Mr. Mbeki's first attempt to mediate peace in Ivory Coast last month followed violence triggered by the government's bombing of rebel and French targets in the north and the destruction of the country's air force by France in retaliation. Mass looting and protests that followed killed dozens and drove thousands of foreigners and Ivorians out of the country.

Several thousand French troops are in Ivory Coast to assist United Nations peacekeepers.

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