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Implementation of Ivory Coast Peace Accord Uncertain - 2003-01-30

Life began returning to normal in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, despite growing uncertainty that the government will implement a peace accord reached with the rebels last week.

For the first time in nearly a week, people lined up at banks in Abidjan's Central Plateau business district, which still bears scars from several days of rioting over the peace agreement.

This was the first time that banks opened since bands of rioters rampaged through the streets, protesting what they said was the government's concession of too much power to the rebels.

President Laurent Gbagbo continued to hold consultations with political and civil society groups, as he prepared to give a long-awaited speech explaining why he accepted the accord. It is not clear when the Ivorian leader will deliver his speech.

Pressure has been growing on the president to annul parts of the agreement that give key ministerial posts to the rebels.

On Wednesday, Ivory Coast's major political parties gathered to denounce the granting of any power to rebels. The army had earlier said it would not accept the participation of rebels in the government. Senior army officials called the accord "humiliating."

At the same time, France, the largest foreign investor in Ivory Coast, has been calling for Mr. Gbagbo to implement the agreement.

Protesters earlier this week vented their anger against France, accusing the government of French President Jacques Chirac of forcing President Gbagbo to accept the agreement.

French nationals continued to line up at Abidjan's airport to catch flights out of the country. Private French companies have flown out hundreds of employees and their families, amid fears of possible attacks on French nationals.

The Red Cross and other international humanitarian agencies also said they were taking employees' families out of the country.

Rebels with the main northern-based insurgent group, the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, said they have placed their forces on high alert for a possible attack by government forces.

Rebel leaders say they are not prepared to abandon the accord, saying they had already given enough concessions to the government by dropping their demands for President Gbagbo's resignation.

The rebels launched their attacks in September with a failed coup attempt, and quickly took over about half of the country, the world's largest producer of cocoa.