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Mediators Fails to Resolve Impasse Over New Ivory Coast PM


War-divided Ivory Coast is still without a new prime minister, despite a round of talks mediated by three African heads of state. The appointment of a new head of government is a requirement of a new Security Council resolution aimed at paving the way for future elections.

Tuesday's effort to get Ivory Coast's rival factions to agree on a candidate for prime minister brought all three of the current African mediators in the three-year-old civil war to the commercial capital, Abidjan.

African Union Chairman and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Niger's president and the head of the regional bloc ECOWAS, Mamadou Tandja, and South African President Thabo Mbeki, the AU's special mediator for Ivory Coast, led a whirlwind round of consultations.

However, after meeting with President Laurent Gbagbo, opposition leaders, and representatives of the New Forces rebels, President Obasanjo told journalists there was still no single choice for prime minister that all parties could agree on.

"This afternoon, when the three of us, President Thabo Mbeki, President Tandja, myself, put our heads together, we narrowed the list to two. Neither of those two met the U.N. resolution condition," he said.

A recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution supported allowing President Gbagbo up to 12 additional months in power, after presidential elections scheduled for last month were deemed impossible by the United Nations.

The other main facet of the resolution is the appointment of a new prime minister acceptable to all sides, who will help prepare the way for eventual presidential polls.

The New Forces rejected a short list of four candidates last week, because it failed to include their political leader, Guillaume Soro.

Members of the political opposition bloc were demanding that a prime minister be chosen from among their own ranks. But supporters of the president rejected the idea of an opposition member filling the post.

President Obasanjo admitted before leaving Abidjan that the process of choosing a prime minister would have to be reworked. He said, however, that the mediators had not yet given up.

"We take what we now have as a challenge," he said. "The methodology we have used has not yielded the expected results. And we have given ourselves time to adopt another methodology. And we hope within the next 10 days, we'll be back."

The Security Council resolution is also calling for the new prime minister to be given all the necessary powers to complete his job.

On his last trip to Abidjan several weeks ago, President Obasanjo said the current Prime Minister Seydou Diarra will remain in power until a new head of Ivory Coast's reconciliation government is chosen.

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