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Ivory Coast Warring Factions Arrive for Unprecedented Summit


After a day of delays over security concerns, the five main personalities in Ivory Coast's more than three-year-old civil war have opened a summit in the administrative capital. The meeting, called by the prime minister of the country's transitional government, is meant to rekindle dialogue among the warring factions.

The four leaders invited to the summit by Ivory Coast Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny arrived at the convention center where the meeting is taking place four hours after the scheduled start time.

The head of the New Forces, Guillaume Soro, arrived in a U.N.-escorted convoy with popular northern opposition leader Alassane Ouattara and former President Charles Konan Bedie. The prime minister greeted each man and then waited at the entrance for the arrival of President Laurent Gbagbo 15 minutes later.

Though the four men have come together to sign a number of still un-implemented peace deals, this is the first time they have met on Ivorian soil since the beginning of the civil war in September 2002.

A U.N. Security Council resolution extended the mandate of the president an extra year after elections last October fell through. Mr. Banny now has the difficult job of disarming northern rebels and southern militias, identifying who is eligible to vote, and organizing elections before the end of October 2006.

Mr. Banny has said since his appointment to the post in December that dialogue would be the key to any successful conclusion to the crisis. And officials from the prime minister's office say the main purpose of the meeting is to get all sides talking to each other again.

But disagreements over security at the summit forced a first day of talks to be canceled Monday.

New Forces representatives said government forces were not respecting a previously-agreed-to security arrangement by allowing armed soldiers within the compound.

The president's security coordinator said the government army presence was normal at any event attended by the president.

Dozens of armed members of Mr. Gbagbo's security detail arrived at the convention center shortly before the president. Peacekeepers belonging to Ivory Coast's U.N. mission patrolled the compound.

Members of the prime minister's office say the talks could continue into Wednesday.

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