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Ivorians Express Disappointment After Annan Visit


People from several sides of Ivory Coast's conflict are disappointed at the results of a meeting between the government and rebels that was chaired by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Franz Wild reports for VOA from Abidjan that highly politicized Ivorian newspapers said the meeting did not produce enough assurances presidential elections would be possible by the end of October, as scheduled.

"Will Gbagbo be president after October?" reads the headline of Nord-Sud, a newspaper not usually associated with its support for Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. "We will assess in September," it quotes U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as saying.

Across the Ivorian political spectrum, some feel Mr. Annan did little to rekindle hope elections can still be held in war-divided Ivory Coast by October 31. The United Nations had extended President Laurent Gbagbo's mandate for another year when elections did not materialize last year.

Mr. Annan told journalists he was confident elections could be held within the next four months. When asked what would happen to Mr. Gbagbo if they were not, he said the leaders of the peace process would take stock in mid-September.

"The status of President Gbagbo will be discussed then. We should not jump the gun," he said.

The rebel New Forces' Cisse Sindou says Mr. Annan did not deal with the issue of whether Mr. Gbagbo would remain president. Amid allegations the United Nations interfered in Ivorian politics in January, Gbagbo supporters took to the streets in Abidjan and western Ivory Coast, attacking U.N. headquarters.

Pro-Gbagbo paper Notre Voie led with the headline, "Very Little Steps." It characterizes Mr. Annan's attempts as "strange remedies." Some Gbagbo supporters say the issue of disarmament was neglected. Though western militias were given a deadline to disband by the end of the month, Gbagbo supporters feel there should have been more pressure on the New Forces to disarm.

The leader of the pro-Gbagbo women patriots, Genvieve Bro Grebe, says elections cannot be held, if the rebels are not disarmed.

She says she cannot be happy with what was decided, because, she says, Kofi Annan thinks there will be elections. Though she agrees this is possible, she says, she asks how they can hold elections without disarming the rebels.

Under the agreement, Mr. Gbagbo is to issue a decree that will allow the independent electoral commission to amend the electoral code in order to facilitate voting.

While millions of Ivorians are still without official documents, and would be unable to vote, the leaders agreed 50 mobile courts are to be deployed within 10 days to identify people.

Mr. Annan said the situation will be reviewed, but he is content with the current progress.

"If the calendar is stuck to, we will be fine," he said. "If there are any adjustments that have to be made, we will cross that bridge when we get there."

U.N. officials say the disarmament process is slowly moving ahead, but that deadlines have been missed before. The new agreement calls for the so-called pre-regroupment of warring forces to end before the end of the month.

Recent meetings between rebels and the army have ended in dispute, with rebels insisting the disarmament process should be a reintegration and remodeling of the Ivorian security forces. Army leaders say disarmament should simply consist of rebels handing over their weapons and their territory.

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