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Ivory Coast Government Agrees to Cease-Fire with Rebels - 2002-10-18


In Ivory Coast, a cease-fire accord between rebels and government forces appears to be holding following Thursday's signing of an agreement to end hostilities.

No fighting was reported early Friday in the hours after the agreement took effect.

Insurgents signed the truce on Thursday in the rebel-held city of Bouake. In a televised speech early Friday, President Laurent Gbagbo said his government had accepted the terms of the cease-fire agreement. He called on the renegade soldiers who launched the rebellion to return to the republic. The president said to them, "let's talk," and said they should not be afraid of tribunals.

The accord brokered by West African mediators calls for both sides to stop fighting while negotiations get under way for a comprehensive peace agreement. Government officials said talks could begin as early as Tuesday.

Some rebels, including the commander of insurgent forces in the rebel-held town of Vavoua, on Friday said they did not accept the cease-fire. The statements raised doubts among some analysts here of whether those signing Thursday's agreement represented all of the insurgents.

Ivorian Army spokesman Jules Yao-Yao on Friday said loyalist forces are prepared to keep fighting if they are attacked.

The accord allows for the deployment of West African troops to monitor the cease-fire.

President Gbagbo has called on France, the former colonial power, to provide a buffer force between loyalists and rebels for a period of about one week until West African cease-fire monitors begin to deploy. French army officials say they will provide cease-fire monitors on a temporary basis.

The conflict, which began September 19, has killed hundreds and displaced thousands more. The fighting erupted when a group of disgruntled soldiers staged coordinated attacks on Abidjan in the south, Bouake in the center, and Korhogo in the north.

The insurrection came amid anger over the government's plans to demobilize about 700 soldiers. The rebellion escalated, with insurgents taking control of a large number of towns in the center and north of the country. The rebels' demands have included the removal of President Gbagbo.

The cease-fire agreement now in place does not call on the rebels to disarm, as the government had earlier requested. Instead, it commits both sides to stop their advances and maintain their current positions.

Ivory Coast is the world's main producer of cocoa. The fighting in recent weeks had helped push world prices for the beans used to make chocolate to near 17-year highs. Word that the cease-fire accord had been signed Thursday sent prices plunging.

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