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Ivorians Angered Over Election Delay

Citizens of Ivory Coast have expressed mixed reactions to the latest postponement of the country's much-delayed elections. Political leaders say the delay is needed to complete voter registration lists. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Some Ivorians expressed anger over the latest delay in holding the country's presidential election. But others expressed resignation, acknowledging that preparations for the vote were far behind schedule.

The country's main political leaders, meeting in Burkina Faso, said it would be impossible to organize the vote by November 30 because of technical difficulties.

They directed the electoral commission to set a new date by the end of the year. Pro-democracy groups and the United Nations said they hoped the vote would be held by early next year.

Former rebel leader and current Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said the government is preparing to finance the nearly $200 million needed to hold the elections.

He said Ivory Coast is now ready and would do its best to successfully end the crisis.

The elections were originally due to be held three years ago, as part of a peace agreement signed in 2003, following an attempted coup.

The attempt failed, but divided the country in two with the government of President Laurent Gbagbo controlling the southern part while the rebels controlled the north. U.N. and French peacekeepers patrolled a tense buffer zone between the two.

One of the opposition leaders, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, said the main issue was that the vote be orderly.

He said the process must continue in a climate of peace and the obstacles regarding voter eligibility and finances must be removed.

The other main opposition leader, former President Konan Bedie, said the most important issue was proper voter registration, after which a new election date could be set.

The electoral commission two months ago began registering the estimated nine-million eligible voters. But to date, less than one-tenth of the planned 11,000 registration centers had been opened.

The main reason given was a lack of funds although clashes last month obliged the commission to suspend its work for a few days.

The commission is to update controversial registration lists used for the last elections in the year 2000.

Regional and ethnic tensions over the issue of Ivorian nationality were a major factor in the coup d'etat that overthrew then-President Bedie in 1999. It brought a period of instability that caused an exodus of foreign investors and economic decline from which the country has yet to emerge.

Many Ivorians hope a successful presidential vote will signal a formal end to the past troubles and set the country on the road to prosperity again.