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Ivory Coast Opposition to Suspend Participation in Reconciliation Government

Ivory Coast's opposition says it will withdraw its ministers from the country's unity government until a new one is formed, as President Laurent Gbagbo's elected five-year mandate expires. Opposition militants are vowing to take to the streets, if he does not step down, fueling fears of possible violence.

The spokesman of Ivory Coast's opposition bloc, known as the G7, Alphonse Djedje Mady told journalists and supporters in Abidjan Tuesday that, after October 26, President Laurent Gbagbo's constitutional term will be finished.

Starting Wednesday, Mr. Mady called upon G7 ministers serving in the country's unity government to no longer participate in government activities. He says a new body must be formed before they will consider returning.

Mr. Gbagbo, who has said he will remain president, has the backing of a recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution, which supports his continuing in office for a maximum of one year. The resolution is aimed at giving more time to organize presidential elections, after polls originally scheduled for October 30 were deemed impossible.

It also aims to define the powers of a new prime minister, who should be named before the end of the month. The G7 grouping has called for a prime minister from its own ranks and says it will discuss Wednesday what powers he should have.

The G7 is made up of both opposition parties and representatives of the rebel New Forces, who have held the northern half of Ivory Coast since civil war broke out three years ago.

New Forces representatives say they want their top two political officials to be considered for the post of prime minister. The rebels have had ministers in the reconciliation government which was formed after an initial peace agreement in France in early 2003.

A leader of the youth wing of popular northern opposition leader Alassane Ouattara's political party, Timite Ali Baba, says his militants are also ready to take to the streets.

"We are going to call all of the population of Ivory Coast to come, through a demonstration, to tell Laurent Gbagbo that he cannot be the president of our country," he said. "If you want us to be direct, let me tell you that we are going to invite people for street demonstrations."

In March 2004, security forces killed 120 people while repressing another march against Mr. Gbagbo, according to U.N. figures.

Mr. Gbagbo's supporters, known as Young Patriots, have scheduled a concert on Sunday in a stadium in Abidjan, raising fears of possible confrontations between rival groups over the weekend.