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Ivory Coast Rebels Say No Peace Solution With President Gbagbo


Senior rebel officials in Ivory Coast are saying President Laurent Gbagbo will not be a part of the solution to the country's conflict.

The rebel New Forces countered President Laurent Ggabgo's inflammatory speech on Saturday by saying he could not be included in any agreement, which would lead to the end of the four-year conflict in Ivory Coast.

Mr. Gbagbo reiterated on national television he would not give up power at the end of his mandate in October.

He said, he knows exactly where he is taking Ivory Coast. The old process, he said, is over, truly over. Now, he said, it is time for new solutions.

Mr. Gbagbo has backed out of the peace process over the past two months, not participating in a United Nations brokered meeting in New York, and saying the 10,000 U.N. and French peacekeepers in Ivory Coast were welcome to leave.

The New Forces, who control the north of Ivory Coast since a failed coup and brief civil war against Mr. Gbagbo in 2002, now say the international community must crank up the pressure for him to leave power.

Senior rebel official Ben Souk says Mr. Gbagbo's exit is the only way fresh elections can be organized.

"They have to remove him, like they removed Charles Taylor in Liberia," Souk said. " They have to send him out like Charles Taylor. They should give full power to Prime Minister Banny and then we will organize new elections in Ivory Coast."

Souk asserts that it is now up to the international community to take a strong stance against Mr. Gbagbo.

"It is not up to us to increase the pressure," he said. " The international community itself knows what is going on. It needs to put on the pressure, like they did in Liberia when they removed Charles Taylor and like they did in Haiti when they removed Jean-Bertrand Aristide."

There are no official plans for after October. While Mr. Gbagbo says the U.N. mediators are biased, the New Forces have rejected the official A.U. mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki for the same reasons.

This month, ECOWAS, the African Union and the U.N. Security Council will be discussing Ivory Coast's situation.

Mr. Ggagbo's mandate had initially expired last October, but had been extended for a year by the international community in the hope elections could be organized.

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