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Annan: Ivory Coast Elections Still Possible


With less than four months left before the deadline, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has reaffirmed his faith that Ivory Coast can still hold elections as scheduled. The U.N. leader said there was only a small chance presidential elections would not take place before the end of October.

The U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said a lot of work has still to be done before elections can be held in Ivory Coast, but he was confident it was still possible to meet October's deadline.

Mr. Annan made his assesment after a four-hour meeting with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, South African President Thabo Mbeki, as well as representatives from several West African countries in Yamoussoukro.

Also at the meeting were Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, the Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, rebel leader Guillaume Soro, and representatives from the opposition.

Mr Annan said, "certain measures will have to be taken by specific dates" before the election. He said in order to have elections, efforts have to be stepped up to identify the millions of Ivorians who are without official documents and can therefore not vote.

The rebel New Forces who control the northern part of Ivory Coast said they felt northerners were not adequately represented on voting lists and did not have equal political and civil rights.

The other major stumbling block to the peace process has been disarmament of the rebels, new government soldiers, and independent militias. Mr Annan said the militia had to be disbanded by the end of this month.

Ahead of what was billed as a mini-summit, Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo had made it clear there would be no new negotiations on the peace process. He said the Secretary general was only assessing the election preparations on this stop of his trip around Africa's trouble spots before his term ends in December.

The U.N. extended Mr Gbagbo's term for a year last October. When asked how he felt if Mr Gbagbo stays beyond his mandate, Mr Annan said he did "not want to jump the gun".

The U.N.Secretary-general said he would reassess progress in mid-September,but was hopeful everything would go according to plan.

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