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Gbagbo to Meet UN's Annan to Update him on Ivory Coast Peace Deal


After reviewing the consolidation of the peace process in Sierra Leone and Liberia, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will be discussing the more challenging process in war-divided Ivory Coast on Wednesday. But Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo says there will not be any new negotiations with Mr. Annan. Franz Wild will be covering the meeting for VOA and has this report from Abidjan.

President Laurent Gbagbo returned from the African Union summit in the Gambia, insisting that his meeting with Kofi Annan in the capital Yamoussoukro will be nothing more than an opportunity for him to bring the U.N. secretary-general up to speed with Ivory Coast's ongoing peace process.

His special advisor, Lambert Seri Bahi, tells VOA that all the measures to be taken to reunite Ivory Coast were agreed on in last year's peace deal signed in Pretoria, South Africa.

"What is clear to [Mr Gbagbo] is that with regards to the peace process, anything that was to be negotiated was negotiated and adopted; the laws and the candidacy of the leaders," Bahi says.

What is being called a mini-summit will also include Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, South African President Thabo Mbeki, Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, and Niger's President Mamadou Tandja. The leadership of the rebel New Forces says it expects to be invited too, but said they had not received official confirmation by Tuesday morning.

The New Forces took control of the northern half of Ivory Coast in 2002, lamenting what they call a lack of democratic and civil rights for many northerners, because they are considered foreigners by the state. Many do not carry any official documents, which excludes them from voting and makes travel difficult.

Current obstacles to the peace process are the disarmament of rebel and some government troops, as well as western militia, and the identification of millions of potential voters. The U.N. extended Mr Gbagbo's presidency last year, under the condition that elections are organized by the end of October.

Many diplomats in Abidjan are privately doubtful this is feasible.

But Gbagbo-advisor Bahi says the government remains positive that elections will take place within the designated period.

"If all the parties fulfill their obligations vis-a-vis the agreements and the road map [for peace] then we should be able to move forward," Bahi says. "We have to remain optimistic. We cannot go on saying, well the elections cannot be held, anticipating all kinds of chaotic situations."

The AFP news agency reported that Mr. Gbagbo told the press at last weekend's African Union summit in the Gambia that it was not up to the AU to decide when Ivorian elections should be held. He said that was a decision Ivorians had to make.

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