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Ivory Coast Summit Ends Without Major Decision


An unprecedented summit of the principle parties in Ivory Coast's more than three-year-old civil war has ended negotiations after just one day. But, all sides say they are ready to reopen dialogue to prepare the way for elections.

The talks, originally scheduled for two days and then delayed by 24 hours over security concerns, ended after just four hours.

But in a statement read by Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, all sides reaffirmed their commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict that has divided Ivory Coast into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south since September 2002.

In attendance in Yamoussoukro were President Laurent Gbagbo, ex-President Henri Bedie, former prime minister turned opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, and New Forces rebel leader Guillaume Soro. The meeting was organized by the prime minister.

And though few new decisions were made, the four men agreed that an updated timetable for disarmament of northern rebels and southern militia should be created, and government and rebel military chiefs should begin meeting regularly.

The group also agreed to the creation of a new vice president's post on the Independent Electoral Commission. Elections delayed from last year are due to take place before the end of October.

The new vice president will be charged with assuring the heavily disputed posts on the commission are distributed equally among Ivory Coast's political groups. Ouattara, who is expected to represent his party, known as the RDR, in the presidential polls, said he was happy with the talks.

"The goal was not to renegotiate the peace deals", he said after the meeting. "We were just trying to speed up their application."

New Forces spokesman Cisse Sindou said the rebels were satisfied with the summit, the first of its kind on Ivorian soil. But he said, they will wait to see if all sides follow through on their promises.

"We feel very well about the meeting. The conclusions are okay. Let us see how the implementation of all this is going to take place. But the most important thing is the start of the military dialogue between the two forces. I think that is the key word," added Sindou.

Ivory Coast's civil war has been largely frozen since a 2003 peace accord created a U.N.-patrolled buffer zone separating the rebels from government troops. But that original peace deal and a number of others have never been fully implemented.

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