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Ivory Coast Opposition, Rebels Say No to Term Extension for President


Ivory Coast's political opposition and rebel leaders have rejected any extension of President Laurent Gbagbo's mandate when it expires in October. Mr. Gbagbo was given an additional 12 months by the international community last year after planned elections were deemed impossible, and many now believe more poll delays are unavoidable.

The leaders of Ivory Coast's opposition bloc, known as the G7, met in the town of Daoukro Thursday to formulate a common position weeks ahead of an expected United Nations decision on the fate President Laurent Gbagbo.

At the end of the meeting, the major opposition leaders and representatives of the New Forces rebels said they reject any possible extension of the president's already expired term in office.

Presidential elections originally scheduled for last October were called off when southern militias loyal to Mr. Gbagbo and the northern rebels, who attempted to overthrow him in 2002, did not disarm.

The United Nations Security Council granted the president a 12-month extension to his mandate last year to allow more time to organize polls. But neither side has begun handing in arms, and a controversial scheme to identify millions of undocumented citizens and foreign residents has also stalled.

The G7 criticized Mr. Gbagbo, saying he alone is responsible for the deadlock. They also condemned the international community for what they said was its failure to take action against the president to put an end to the impasse.

Presidential elections are due to be held in late October. However, few in the country now believe there is any chance they will take place.

And with Mr. Gbagbo's mandate again due to expire, it is not clear what will happen to the country's leadership.

During a visit to Ivory Coast last month, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said a decision on Mr. Gbagbo's fate would be made in the General Assembly in mid-September. Any changes to the election calendar, he said, would be made at the same time.

Around 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers and French soldiers are currently in Ivory Coast.

Most patrol a buffer zone that stretches the width of the country, separating the rebels, who hold Ivory Coast's northern half, from government forces in the south.

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