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Ivory Coast PM Creates Program of Confidence, Dialogue for Peace


The interim prime minister of Ivory Coast says the key to peace in his war-divided nation is building confidence. Charles Konan Banny spoke to reporters in Washington Tuesday about his program to steer Ivory Coast toward disarmament and democratic elections.

Prime Minister Banny is in Washington for meetings with senior Bush administration officials, top U.N. representatives, and leaders of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. His goal is to get much needed support for the tough job facing him: reuniting Ivory Coast after more than three years of civil war.

The conflict has killed thousands and left the entire northern half of the nation in the hands of rebels.

Despite several failed peace accords and a French-brokered transitional government that never got off the ground, Mr. Banny says he believes he knows the key to bringing stability to the Ivory Coast.

Mr. Banny said once he took up his post, he did a thorough analysis of the crisis and realized the first thing to do was to restore confidence. And that by doing that, he said, an atmosphere could be created in which dialogue among sworn enemies might actually take place.

Mr. Banny was appointed interim prime minister by African mediators and the United Nations in December 2005 to move forward Ivory Coast's repeatedly stalled peace process.

He faces two difficult tasks: organizing elections by October 31 and disarming rebel forces and pro-government militia.

On disarmament, a process that rebels and militiamen have repeatedly put on hold, Mr. Banny acknowledges it will be a difficult process.

"If I achieve that, it will be a great achievement," he noted. "This is the problem. Disarmament should be a voluntary action. Whether you disarm by force or you disarm by convincing the people that they should disarm. We didn't choose the first [option] aspect. To disarm by force means going back to war. So we are not going to do that."

But the prime minister was sketchy on the details of just how this would be achieved.

"By talking with the people," he explained. "And convince [them] that their common interest is to go to peace."

Over the last three years, many dates for disarmament have been set and ignored, so Mr. Banny says he does not believe in that tactic.

On his second task, organizing new elections, the prime minister refused to say whether they will actually take place as scheduled on October 31.

He said the most important part of this goal was to focus on continuing the dialogue between President Laurent Gbagbo, the opposition and its favored candidate, Alassane Ouattara, and rebel ministers.

As for international support for his efforts to restore Ivory Coast, once an economic powerhouse and beacon of stability in West Africa, to peace, Mr. Banny says he is confident the World Bank and the United States government are standing behind him.

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