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Rebel Chief Named Ivory Coast Prime Minister


In Ivory Coast, government officials and rebels have agreed to name New Forces rebel leader Guillaume Soro as prime minister. Tuesday's announcement comes three weeks after Mr. Soro and Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo signed an agreement to create a new government. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Guillaume Soro's deputy, Cisse Sindou, says the rebel leader agreed to accept the nomination late on Monday after receiving a guarantee from government officials that he would have all the necessary powers to organize presidential elections by the end of October.

"Power sharing is whatever power [is] necessary to the prime minister," he said. "Areas like identification, election will be given to Soro. [President] Gbagbo will not have to interfere with that."

The presidential vote, originally scheduled for October 2005, has been postponed two times.

Voter identity cards have been a key demand for the rebels who took up arms four years ago to defend the rights of northerners who do not have Ivorian identification papers.

But analyst Daniel Balint-Kurti, with London-based Chatham House, says Mr. Soro's pending nomination is not enough to guarantee reunification of the country split since 2002.

"It is one thing naming Soro as prime minister," he said. "But actually sharing power with him on a day-to-day basis and putting in place measures to resolve some of the real problems in the country is another matter."

In the past, the debate over voting cards and disarmament of former fighters has stalled efforts to reunite Ivory Coast.

The peace agreement brokered earlier this month in Ouagadougou by Burkina Faso's president and leader of the Economic Community of West African States, Blaise Compaore, is the latest in a string of more than 10 agreements that have thus far failed to reunite the country. But this is the first agreement that was achieved through direct dialogue between the rebels and the government. And this makes Cisse Sindou hopeful that this plan will succeed in reuniting the country.

"Nothing is easy," he said. "But we think that the Ouaga[dougou peace deal] accord is the proposition of [President] Gbagbo himself."

This agreement has led to the creation of a joint army command center that will work on demobilizing militia fighters from both sides.

The power sharing announcement comes as France prepares to pull out 500 troops from the U.N. controlled buffer zone between the rebel-held north and government-controlled south.

Pending President Gbagbo's formal nomination by decree, Mr. Soro will replace the current U.N.-appointed prime minister Charles Konan Banny, who has said he is ready to resign in the interests of his country.

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