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Ivory Coast's Warring Sides Agree to End Hostilities


Political leaders in the Ivory Coast have agreed to stop hostilities at talks in Pretoria. After four days of talks the four main political leaders in Ivory Coast signed an agreement in which they said they would immediately and finally cease all hostilities.

President Laurent Gbagbo, rebel leader Guillaume Soro, former President Henei Konan Bedie, and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara also stipulated in the agreement that presidential elections must be held in October 2005 and that these should be immediately followed by legislative elections.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the talks at the behest of the African Union, told reporters that the commanders of the government and rebel forces will meet in Bouake on April 14 to discuss disarmament and the formation of a national army.

"We discussed the question of disarmament, demobilization, and re-integration, the implementation of earlier decisions with regards to this, the DDR process, and therefore decided that the chiefs of staff both of the National Armed Forces of Cote de Ivoire and armed forces of Force Nouvelle would get together to ensure the implementation of the national plan for DDR, which will therefore commence on the 14th of april this year under the chairpersonship of the prime minister," Mr. Mbeki said.

The government has up to now used the controversial Article 35 of the Ivorian constitution to exclude opposition leader Ouattara from being a candidate, because of questions of nationality.

But the leaders have mandated Mr. Mbeki rule on the issue of eligibility of presidential candidates. Before he does so, he will first consult with African Union leader and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The agreement comes four months after a fragile cease-fire was broken by government forces in November with a series of bombing raids and an eight-month impasse in the peace initiative launched by Mr. Mbeki. He was asked by the African Union to intervene when several earlier peace initiatives failed to completely halt the civil war which began in 2002.

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