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Former Ivory Coast Dictator To Take Part In Reconciliation Forum


Ivory Coast's former military dictator General Robert Guei says he plans to take part in his country's national reconciliation forum even though his top aide was detained Tuesday on reports of a planned coup.

The former military ruler spoke to VOA by phone from his western native village of Ouessessou, where he has lived since being forced out of power in a popular uprising one year ago.

General Guei said paramilitary police detained his top aide, Captain Fabien Coulibaly, on rumors of involvement in illegal activities.

General Guei said police had summoned his aide, Captain Coulibaly, for questioning on reports the officer was involved in a planned coup against President Laurent Gbagbo. The general insisted such reports are absolutely false.

The former dictator had sent his aide to Abidjan, the commercial capital, to prepare his participation in the National Reconciliation Forum convened by President Gbagbo. The forum, scheduled to last two months, opened last week in a bid to end the political crisis that began when General Guei took power in a coup two years ago.

Ethnic tensions between southern Christians and northern Muslims increased after the coup, and hundreds of people died in street riots last year

In the VOA interview, the general said authorities gave Captain Coulibaly administrative hassles for one week before arresting him.

He said Captain Coulibaly had left for Abidjan one week ago to fill out administrative documents and fully normalize the status of military officers who accompanied General Guei into exile. The general added the procedure, which should have been taken care of immediately, dragged on for days, and ended up with Captain Coulibaly in custody.

The former dictator also dismissed reports he and Captain Coulibaly had planned to assassinate former President Henri Konan Bedie, whom he overthrew almost two years ago. He said if he had wanted to kill Mr. Bedie, he would have done so on December 24, 1999, the date of the coup.

However, General Guei insisted he still plans to take part in the forum.

The general said his aide had not been formally arrested, but was being detained for questioning as a means of verifying rumors. He added people start rumors all the time in Ivory Coast, and expressed confidence the matter will have what he called a "happy ending."

General Guei said he intends to take part in helping to bring about reconciliation in Ivory Coast.

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