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Ivory Coast President Says He'll Stay in Office Beyond Term

Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo says he will stay in power beyond his five-year term, until new elections are held, and that preparations are being made to name a new prime minister. The rebels have proclaimed their leader, Guillaume Soro, as the new prime minister.

Mr. said the country's constitutional court decided Saturday that he should be allowed to stay as on as president until a new head of state is elected , even though his term in office ends Sunday.

A United Nations Security Council resolution gives Mr. Gbagbo up to 12 months to help organize new elections, but he said he hoped this could happen quicker.

He said preparations would begin with the nomination of a new reconciliation prime minister in the coming days. The U.N. resolution says the prime minister should have expanded powers.

Rebels released a statement saying they should get the post, and would start disarming if the new prime minister would start implementing rules recognizing as citizens many northerners who are now treated as foreigners. The rules are part of successive peace deals that have only been partially implemented.

President Gbagbo spoke as mass rallies against him were held in the rebel-stronghold of Bouake.

In Abidjan, an opposition rally inside a sports stadium, also demanding Mr. Gbagbo step down, ended with the sound of burning tires, warning shots and people fleeing in panic.

At least one policeman and several protesters were reported injured.

The protest organizer, Kouadio Konan Bertin, told VOA despite police interference, he was pleased.

"Our young they came. They proved today that they are ready to go on the road in case we ask them to do it, to put away our actual president. His power is over, so from today, during all this month of November, we have to develop action to put him away," Mr. Bertin says.

But one participant, Pascale, said in Ivory Coast today only supporters of President Gbagbo's FPI party are free to speak out.

"We do not have security in this country. If you are not FPI, you can't talk, you don't have liberty. We are not free, we are not free," he says.

Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, has been split in two for over three years.