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Ivory Coast Parties Agree October Elections Impossible

Political parties in Ivory Coast have agreed with Secretary- General Kofi Annan that it will not be possible to hold elections scheduled for October 30. But there is disagreement over what will happen after the election date, with the opposition demanding that Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo leave office.

The political parties in Ivory Coast said they were not surprised by Kofi Annan's statement on Radio France International Thursday that elections are not possible. A member of the opposition PDCI party, Edjemp Ejanpa Tiemele, welcomed Mr. Annan's statement saying that this confirms what the opposition has been saying for weeks.

"We see nothing moving toward elections, no electoral lists, no electoral committee,” said Edjemp Ejanpa Tiemele. “So for us it appears very difficult to hold elections at this date and now we have confirmation from Mr. Annan that these elections should come later."

Most Ivorians hoped that elections would put an end to Ivory Coast's three year long crisis but warring sides have been reluctant to fulfill peace accords. The disarmament and demobilization process, which was meant to reunite the rebel held north and government controlled south, has not taken place and the Independent Electoral Commission in charge of the electoral process has yet to meet.

Even the ruling party, which insisted until recently that it was still possible to hold elections is now acknowledging that the October 30 date will have to be pushed back. A senior member of the ruling FPI party, William Attebi, says that date is not all that important.

"The question is not the day of the election really, because I think technically it is not possible to organize the election at this date," he said.

However, there is disagreement about what should happen next. Mr. Attebi insists that President Laurent Gbagbo should stay in office until new presidential elections can be organized. But opposition and the armed New Forces rebels want President Gbagbo to leave office after October 30, and a transitional government to take over.

The spokesman for the New Forces, Sidiki Konate, says acknowledging that October elections are not possible was the first step. The next, he says, is for Mr. Gbagbo's team to be replaced by another.

"It is now that we all have to recognize it must be another team who shall lead this transition,” he noted. “We cannot accept that Mr. Gbagbo Laurent who caused all the problems lead the transition."

The rebels have threatened they will take up arms against President Gbagbo if he does not leave voluntarily.

Ivory Coast was split in two in 2002, after an unsuccessful coup by northern based army officers spread into civil war.

More than 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers and French soldiers have been monitoring a cease-fire line, but there have still been several clashes between the warring sides as well as ethnic violence both in the north and south.