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West African Nations Discuss Deployment of Force to Monitor Ivory Coast Cease-Fire

Top military officials from six West African nations are meeting in Ivory Coast to discuss the deployment of cease-fire monitors. Army chiefs-of-staff of Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo are to study plans for the deployment of a multi-national force, as part of efforts to end Ivory Coast's five-week-old rebellion.

The meeting also includes advisors from western nations, including the United States, which has pledged its support for peace efforts.

Under the terms of the ceasefire accord that has been in effect since last week, loyalist forces and rebels have maintained their positions. There have been no verified reports of fighting in recent days.

Heads of state of a West African contact group that is to mediate further negotiations called for the deployment of a multi-national force of peacekeepers when they met in Abidjan on Wednesday. The West African force is to replace hundreds of French troops currently monitoring the cease-fire.

Mediators hope to have the West African force on the ground within two weeks. But officials say the timing of the deployment could depend on how quickly they receive financial and logistical aid from Western nations.

The meeting on Friday was to go over reconnaissance reports that have been gathered from the rebel zones over the past few days. Based on those reports, the senior army officers will issue a recommendation on how to deploy their forces.

Many people in Ivory Coast have expressed skepticism about having a West African force on Ivorian soil. They point to reports of past missions in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia that have led to massive human rights violations.

Supporters of President Gbagbo have protested any prospect of a multi-national deployment in Ivory Coast, saying the country should be allowed to solve its crisis internally. The conflict in Ivory Coast, which began on September 19, has killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands more.

Rebels are demanding President Gbagbo's resignation.