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Ivory Coast Peace Talks Tackle Key Rebel Demands - 2002-11-07


Rebels and government officials in Ivory Coast are pressing ahead with talks aimed at ending a seven-week-old insurrection in the West African country.

Mediators brokering the talks in Togo said Ivory Coast government and rebel delegations were beginning to touch on the rebels' key demands Thursday. These include President Laurent Gbagbo's resignation and the holding of new elections within six months.

Rebels have repeatedly said they will stick to these demands, while the government has said it will not accept them under any circumstances.

There were few signs of progress following the initial session of the second round of talks, which began Wednesday. But mediators say they remained hopeful that headway would be made. They said both sides appeared determined to press ahead with the negotiations.

Thursday's early sessions involved meetings between Togolese President Ngassingbe Eyadema, the chief mediator in the talks and members of the two delegations. Rebels and government officials consulted with the Togolese leader separately.

Mediators gave no details of how the early consultations had gone or what was discussed.

West African army military officials, meanwhile, gathered for a second day Thursday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to discuss plans for the deployment of more than 1,000 West African peacekeepers in Ivory Coast.

Hundreds of people have been killed since the conflict broke out in the country, most of them in the weeks immediately following the initial rebel attacks on September 19. Hostilities have been on hold since a cease-fire went into effect three weeks ago.

Ivory Coast remains divided, with the center and north in the hands of rebels. The South and west remain under government control.

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