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Ivory Coast Opposition Seeks Power-Sharing Deal - 2002-07-29


Ivory Coast's main opposition party, the Rally of the Republicans, says it is ready to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the government. A political crisis began two-years ago when the government banned RDR leader Alassane Ouattara from running in presidential elections.

The decision by the opposition Rally of the Republicans party to begin negotiations with the government followed a recent meeting between President Laurent Gbagbo and RDR leader Alassane Ouattara.

In an effort to ease the festering political crisis, President Gbagbo has on numerous occasions called for Mr. Ouattara's party to take part in a power-sharing arrangement with his government. But the party had refused and called for new presidential elections in which Mr. Ouattara would be a candidate.

The RDR's decision to enter negotiations with the government indicates the party has backed off the demand for new elections and will instead look ahead to the next presidential poll, scheduled in 2005.

RDR spokesman Aly Coulibaly tells VOA the party's central committee has asked Mr. Ouattara to begin negotiations with the government. Mr. Coulibaly, said the party is seeking some assurances from the government.

He says the party's concern is that there not be any exclusion, and that Mr. Ouattara, who the spokesman says has suffered injustices in the past, can be a presidential candidate in 2005.

Mr. Ouattara, a former prime minister, was barred from running for president two years ago after the country's supreme court ruled he was ineligible because of what it said were doubts about his nationality.

A reconciliation forum hosted by President Gbagbo last year recommended that Mr. Ouattara be granted a certificate of nationality. A judge last month granted Mr. Ouattara the certificate, in keeping with the forum's recommendation.

The RDR wants the government to offer guarantees that it will not take further action to block Mr. Ouattara's candidacy in the next elections.

In a remark last year, President Laurent Gbagbo said he believed Article 35 of the Ivory Coast constitution, which the court invoked in its decision to bar Mr. Ouattara, had been written specifically to keep the former prime minister out of the 2000 race.

Many supporters of Mr. Ouattara accuse the government of trying to keep their candidate out of national politics because of his ethnicity.

Mr. Ouattara is a northerner and a member of the Dioula ethnic group, Ivory Coast's largest. Politics in Ivory Coast have been traditionally dominated by other groups from the country's south and west.

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