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Ivory Coast Peace Talks Tentative After Killing of Rebel Leader's Brother - 2002-11-09

Ivory Coast rebels say they are reluctant to go on with peace negotiations with the government. Talks to end the seven week insurrection in Ivory Coast continued on Saturday.

The chief mediator of the talks, Togolese President Ngassingbe Eyadema, spent much of Saturday trying to persuade the Ivory Coast rebels to remain at the negotiations table.

Leaders of the rebel delegation on Friday hinted they might walk out of negotiations in anger over the killing of the brother of one of the rebel leaders, Louis Dacoury-Tabley. The bullet riddled body of Benoit Dacoury-Tabley was found in Abidjan on Friday.

Rebels accuse the government of President Laurent Gbagbo of carrying out the killing only days after Louis Dacoury-Tabley, a former political ally of Mr. Gbagbo, announced he had joined the insurgent group and was serving as its external affairs coordinator.

Mr. Dacoury-Tabley, who has been living in France, flew to Lome late Friday to join the negotiations.

The head of the rebel delegation, Guillaume Soro, on Saturday told a reporter he was very angry over the killing and did not feel like joining in talks with the government. "If we have face to face talks," he said, "we might come to blows."

President Eyadema met Saturday with both delegations.

The Togolese leader has been working to get both sides to accept a partial deal that falls short of meeting the key demands of both sides. The government wants rebels to disarm immediately. The rebels have demanded President Gbagbo's resignation and new elections.

Hundreds of Togolese demonstrators gathered in Lome Saturday to protest what they said were unfair legislative elections held recently by the Eyadema government.

Demonstrators called for the Togolese leader, whose government has compiled a long record of human rights abuses in the 35 years that he has been in power, to resign. Many demonstrators said they questioned whether the Togolese leader is fit to broker peace in Ivory Coast.

A demonstrator said President Eyadema should fix the problems of his own country first, before trying to fix those of an outside country. Mr. Eyadema, she said, cannot help Ivory Coast.

The conflict in Ivory Coast which erupted on September 19 has left the country divided. The center and north are in the hands of rebels, while the government remains in control of the south and west. Hundreds died in the first few weeks of the insurrection, but fighting has been on hold since a ceasefire went into effect three weeks ago.

West African governments have been pressing for a speedy solution in Ivory Coast, fearing hostilities in the country could destabilize the region.