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Ivory Coast Rebels Reject Peace Talk Proposal


Rebels in Ivory Coast have rejected President Laurent Gbagbo's proposal to hold direct peace talks without the involvement of international agencies. A rebel spokesman says they will not sidestep the process laid out by the U.N. Security Council. Kari Barber reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro released a New Year's statement saying he will not accept President Laurent Gbagbo's bid for direct dialogue with the rebels.

Observers say Mr. Gbagbo's offer, made in a December 19 address, snubs U.N. peace efforts to reunite the country.

Rebel spokesman Siratigui Konate says he believes a U.N. resolution adopted in November provides the only viable framework for peace talks with the government. The resolution gives interim Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny a bigger role in reunifying Ivory Coast and organizing elections set for October.

Elections have been on hold since 2005, extending Mr. Gbagbo's term as president.

Soro, who leads the New Forces rebels, has called for a meeting of opposition groups in response to Mr. Gbagbo's proposal.

Konate says the meeting would be an opportunity for rebels to strengthen alliances and regroup efforts for the new year.

"He called for a real negotiation, another meeting so that they can try to work to see in which way they will have to work properly to push for President Gbagbo to be involved really in the peace process," he said.

U.N. peacekeepers backed by French forces now patrol a buffer zone between the government-run south and rebel-held north.

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