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International Working Group on Ivory Coast Recommends Dissolving Parliament

  • Joe Bavier

A U.N.-created international working group charged with paving the way for elections in war-divided Ivory Coast later this year has recommended dissolving the nation's parliament.

The proposal was criticized by supporters of the president whose delegates dominate the assembly.

In a statement read at the end of its meeting Sunday, the International Working Group said the mandate of Ivory Coast's National Assembly, which expired in December, should not be extended.

Nigeria's Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji is co-president of the group, which is composed of representatives of the international community, lender institutions, such as the World Bank, and the United Nations.

"It has come to an end. We didn't decide that," he said. "The mandate has come to an end. The resolution of the Security Council drew our attention to that fact. Therefore, we should see what we can do to ensure that things go on normally."

Presidential and parliamentary elections had been due to be held in the fall of 2005. But the country's warring factions failed to implement a nearly three-year-old peace process, and the United Nations said it deemed elections impossible.

The same Security Council resolution that created the international panel also extended the mandate of President Laurent Gbagbo for 12 months. However, Adeniji says there was neither the political consensus nor the legal grounds to offer such an extension to the National Assembly.

Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council had previously said the National Assembly should continue its work.

The parliamentary bloc of the presidents own party, which, along with its allies, holds a majority in the National Assembly, has condemned the suggestion to dissolve the body.

The bloc, headed by first lady Simone Gbagbo, said any such move would constitute a violation of national sovereignty.

Even before the working group's recommendation was made public more than a 100 angry supporters of the president attempted to march to the heavily guarded hotel where the meeting was taking place, before being turned back by security forces.

"The U.N. must go," said one demonstrator. "We don't need them. We're ready to do whatever is necessary to make them go."

Several vehicles belonging to the U.N. peacekeeping mission were attacked by supporters of Mr. Gbagbo in different parts of the commercial capital, Abidjan, Sunday. Around 10.000 U.N. peacekeepers and U.N.-mandated French soldiers are in Ivory Coast.

The country has been divided into a rebel-held north and government controlled south since civil war broke out in late 2002.

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