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Rebel Attacks Continue in Ivory Coast - 2003-01-23


Rebel attacks continued Thursday in western Ivory Coast, near the Liberian border. The latest fighting could further complicate peace negotiations under way outside Paris.

Reports of new outbreaks of fighting were confirmed by the French army. A French officer, who is with a 2,000-strong peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, told VOA Thursday, rebels had been attacking loyalist positions around the western town of Toulepleu since Wednesday.

Ivory Coast army officials said the rebels involved in the latest assaults included a contingent of fighters from Liberia. Liberian President Charles Taylor has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Ivorian conflict.

The Ivorian army on Thursday said loyalist forces had repelled the rebel attacks in Toulepleu. French army officers, however, said they could not confirm that claim.

Meanwhile, President Laurent Gbagbo traveled on Thursday to France, where mediators are working to settle the thorniest issues remaining between the government and rebels.

Thousands of government supporters gathered at the Abidjan airport to see the president off. 32-year-old Robert Sayi was among those cheering as the Ivorian leader's motorcade arrived at the airport.

Mr. Sayi said he is happy to see the president go to France, because he believes Mr. Gbagbo will bring peace with him when he returns.

The fighting in Ivory Coast began four months ago. Since then, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands displaced.

The conflict began on September 19 as a military uprising. It quickly spread into an all-out rebel war, in which three insurgent factions are involved.

The rebels went into the talks in France demanding Mr. Gbagbo's resignation and new elections.

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