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Third Day of Protests Continue in Abidjan, Ivory Coast - 2003-01-27


Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is appealing for calm as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of the main city, Abidjan, for a third day to protest a peace accord with the rebels.

President Gbagbo, who just returned to Ivory Coast from the signing of a peace agreement in France, delivered a brief statement on national television and radio urging demonstrators to return to their homes.

The demonstrators accuse France, the former colonial power, of pressuring President Gbagbo into making significant concessions to the rebels at peace talks near Paris.

Under the deal reached among Ivorian government officials, rebels, and opposition parties, the rebels and the opposition will be granted key government positions. The power of the president will also be considerably reduced.

In Abidjan, young people, some wearing war paint on their faces, set up makeshift checkpoints in various parts of the city, where they stopped cars and checked to see if there were French people aboard.

A demonstrator shouted that motorists of all nationalities could pass, except for the French. Others shouted "French traitors."

Pressure also appeared to be mounting on the streets for President Gbagbo to explain why he agreed to the terms of the accord.

At one of the checkpoints in Abidjan's wealthy Cocody district, 32-year-old demonstrator Franck Dougon, who is unemployed, said he is waiting for the Ivorian leader to give some answers.

He said that when the president left for France last week, he promised to bring back peace. But Mr. Dougon said it is bizarre to him that the president agreed to an accord that he and other Ivorians would not accept.

In brief remarks, the Ivorian leader said he would address the nation in the coming days.

Newspapers in the commercial capital carried editorials saying the government had been humiliated by France, which holds large economic interests in the Ivory Coast, the world's largest producer of cocoa.

The rebel war, which began with a coup attempt in September, has killed hundreds and left the nation divided.

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