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Rejected Mediator Thabo Mbeki Arrives in Ivory Coast


South African President Thabo Mbeki has arrived in Ivory Coast for discussions with President Laurent Gbagbo about the stalled peace process for which he is the African Union mediator. But the rebels no longer recognize Mr. Mbeki as the mediator and have asked for him to be replaced.

President Thabo Mbeki's 24-hour visit to Ivory Coast has met with strong opposition from rebels, who have controlled the north since a failed coup against President Laurent Gbagbo in September 2002.

The rebel New Forces said in a statement issued Sunday they had written to the African Union President Denis Sassou Nguesso asking Mr. Mbeki be removed as official mediator in the Ivorian crisis. The statement said Mr. Mbeki tries to monopolize the Ivorian conflict, without following A.U. or ECOWAS rules.

The New Forces have questioned Mr. Mbeki's role as mediator for a year.

But Mr. Gbagbo's spokesman, Désiré Tagro, rejects this criticism.

He says, Thabo Mbeki is the one who has advanced the peace process. He says, Mr. Mbeki enabled necessary legislative reforms and other crucial elements.

With Mr. Gbagbo boycotting a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York last week, the Ivorian peace process has come to a standstill.

Mr. Gbagbo has said the current process is not working and he will submit a proposal for a new process to the A.U.

Tagro says Mr. Ggabgo wants to shift the focus.

He says, the peace process needs to find a new direction. The rebels have to be condemned from the start, he says, because they attacked an elected power. He says, aggressors should not be turned into victims.

High level officials now accept elections scheduled for end of October are now impossible to organize.

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