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Ivory Coast Elections Delayed Again


In Ivory Coast, officials close to the president say they agree that elections cannot be held by the end of October, as had been scheduled. They were speaking one day after the United Nations' top envoy in Ivory Coast said elections were not technically possible by October 31.

The head of the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast, Pierre Schori, told Reuters in an interview Wednesday that the country will not be able to hold presidential elections by the October 31 deadline because procedures for voter identification and registration are not finished. This was the first time a top-level official in Ivory Coast has said this publicly, though many have shared this view privately for months.

Schori added there seemed to be insufficient political will to push for elections.

Mr. Gbagbo's spokesman, Désiré Tagro, says he has demonstrated a commitment to do what is necessary to bring peace to Ivory Coast.

He says, President Gbagbo's side has shown the will to move ahead with the peace process. So, he says, if Schori is speaking about a lack of will, he says, he must be talking about the rebels who are unwilling to disarm.

The international community extended Mr. Ggagbo's mandate for a year when similar problems blocked elections last October.

President Gbagbo has said he will stay in office until elections are held. But the opposition says the president's term is up and he must step down. The New Forces rebels, based in the northern part of the country, also want him to step down and say they will not disarm until this issue is settled.

Tagro, the presidential spokesman, says that a potential delay of the elections does not concern Mr. Gbagbo's party.

He says, they are not worried about the date, but what is important is to have credible elections as early as possible.

The main opposition parties and New Forces rebels have declined to comment on Schori's remarks.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, who is responsible for organizing elections and is charged with reuniting Ivory Coast, said a statement would be made on the subject next week.

The New Forces tried to topple Mr. Gbagbo in 2002, and gained control of the north in a brief civil war. They say northerners do not have equal political and civil rights. Mr. Gbagbo's supporters say the New Forces need to disarm before new voters can be identified.

A U.N.-backed peace plan envisions the disarmament of the rebels, militias and some government soldiers, as well as an identification and registration plan that will make many more people eligible to vote.

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