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Annan Criticizes Ivory Coast President's Decision to Boycott Meeting


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Ivory Coast's president to reconsider his decision to boycott a meeting set for next week to discuss his country's troubled peace process.

Mr. Annan said he hoped President Laurent Gbagbo would accept his invitation to join regional and other Ivorian political leaders at Wednesday's meeting in New York.

He also said he was deeply concerned over what he called an increase in inflammatory rhetoric in Ivory Coast which he said is fueling serious tension.

Thursday, President Gbagbo said that the peace process has failed and is going nowhere. He said he would boycott the meeting with the secretary-general and also would not send a representative.

The president also criticized diplomats who visit Abidjan every month to review the peace process, calling them rude and flippant.

Ivory Coast's peace process is deadlocked. Rebels who control the north refuse to disarm because the president says he will stay in office if scheduled elections do not take place in October. Mr. Gbagbo says rebels must disarm to allow new voters to register.

The head of the UN mission to Ivory Coast, Pierre Schori, says it will be impossible to hold elections by the end of October.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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