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Ivory Coast Rebels Pull out Temporarily from Lome's Peace Talks - 2002-11-09


Ivory Coast rebels have suspended their participation at peace talks that were meant to end a seven-week-old conflict in the West African country. The talks are held in the Togolese capital, Lome.

Rebel leaders announced their decision to temporarily suspend the negotiations late Saturday, accusing the government of President Laurent Gbagbo of creating an atmosphere of terror in Ivory Coast while the talks were under way.

The rebels said they were pulling out after receiving reports on Friday that paramilitary police in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, had abducted and killed the brother of one of their leaders, Louis Dacoury-Tabley.

The body of Benoit Dacoury-Tabley was found riddled with bullets Friday outside Abidjan. Reports said he had been abducted on Thursday, one day after Louis Dacoury-Tabley, a former political ally of President Gbagbo, had announced in Paris that he had joined the rebels as their coordinator of external affairs.

The government said it will investigate the killing.

The rebel group's secretary-general, Guillaume Soro, told reporters in Lome Saturday the insurgents remain open to restarting the talks. But Mr. Soro said they will not do so until the government agrees to stop committing what he said are atrocities against political opponents and others.

West African mediators who brokered the talks issued a statement Saturday, condemning the killing of Benoit Dacoury-Tabley.

The suspension of talks came after the chief mediator, Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, met with both delegations Saturday in an effort to save this round of negotiations.

Rebels, who call their group the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, demand President Gbagbo's resignation and new elections. Mediators said they had made little progress in getting both sides to come closer on these key issues.

Officials said there had equally been no movement on the government's demands for the rebels to disarm. Both sides have accused each other of rearming and preparing to break a cease-fire that has been in place for three weeks.

The rebels have repeatedly said they would re-launch attacks if negotiations with the government failed.

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