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Frustration Builds on Both Sides of Ivorian Peace Talks Over Lack of Progress - 2002-11-08

Ivory Coast rebels are accusing the government of negotiating in bad faith at peace talks that are under way in Togo.

The rebels on Friday hinted they might pull out of negotiations, after accusing government security forces of killing the brother of one of their leaders.

Rebel leaders said the body of Benoit Dacoury-Tabley was found riddled with bullets on the outskirts of Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan. Mr. Dacoury-Tabley was the brother of Louis Dacoury-Tabley, the rebel group's external affairs coordinator.

Louis Dacoury-Tabley is a former political ally of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo. He lives in exile in Paris, and he announced his support for the rebels only this past Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in Lome late Friday, the insurgents said the reported killing was to them a sign that the administration of President Laurent Gbagbo is not sincere in its desire to reach a peace accord. There was no immediate comment from the government delegation.

The rebels' complaint comes as Togolese government officials said they were preparing to present a proposal for a partial peace accord to end Ivory Coast's seven-week-old insurrection. The officials, who asked not to be identified, said Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema has been secretly working on the deal as part of an effort to bring a successful end to the negotiations, which have been going on since last week.

Frustration has been building on both sides over the slow pace of the talks.

The negotiations have been difficult, as both sides have refused to budge on their key demands. The Ivory Coast government wants the immediate disarmament of rebels. The rebels have demanded the resignation of President Gbagbo and new elections.

Togolese officials gave no details of the deal that President Eyadema is reportedly proposing. But they say it does not fulfill all the demands of both sides.

Rebels and government delegation members met separately with President Eyadema during the course of the day Friday.

The outcome of these negotiations has huge implications for Ivory Coast and for its neighbors. Ivory Coast the world's largest producer of cocoa - is an economic anchor in the region. West African governments have expressed concern that an escalation of the conflict may destabilize their own nations.

Hostilities been on hold since a cease-fire accord brokered by West African mediators went into effect three weeks ago. Both sides, however, have threatened to resume fighting if the talks fail.

Rebels continue to hold the center and north of the country, while the government remains in control of the south and west.