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Ivory Coast Sets Date for Long-Delayed Vote

Ivory Coast said its long-delayed presidential election will be held November 29.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said the new date is more realistic than previous attempts to hold this much-postponed vote.

Soro read a decree signed by President Laurent Gbagbo that set the election date for Sunday November 29 between the hours of seven and five.

He told reporters in Abidjan that more than six million Ivorians have already registered to vote, representing about 70 percent of those thought to be eligible.

Because so many people have registered, Soro said the electoral process will be representative of the Ivorian population.

Former rebel leader Soro became the prime minister of a unity government as part of a 2007 peace deal. The accord formally ended a brief civil war in 2002 and 2003 but left the world's largest cocoa producer divided between the government-run south and northern provinces controlled by Soro's rebel New Forces.

President Gbagbo's mandate expired in 2005 but he has continued in power because there has been no election to replace him. The last planned ballot in November of 2008 was postponed when the government said it needed more time to prepare voter rolls.

The United Nations has repeatedly called on President Gbagbo's government to set a date for the vote with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last month saying the country "urgently requires credible and transparent elections" to conclude the current transitional government. His comments followed the warnings of a UN panel that said former rebels were re-arming.

Ivory Coast's U.N. ambassador responded by urging the world body to "not get discouraged" by the successive postponements of the presidential vote. Ilahiri Djedje appealed to the UN to continue helping the nation "to effectively overcome the crisis by holding elections in 2009."

The peace deal that made Soro prime minister says all former rebels will be fully disarmed at least two months before the vote. Asked about that condition Thursday, Soro said the government will take "all the necessary measures" to ensure that the election is peaceful.