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Ivory Coast President Ready to Implement Peace Accord


Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo says he will work to implement a peace accord to end a nearly five-month old rebellion in the West African country. The president's announcement came in a much-awaited speech late Friday.

The Ivorian leader surprised many here when he said he would work to implement the French-brokered accord.

The agreement, reached in France two weeks ago, has sparked massive demonstrations by government supporters who maintain it granted too many concessions to the rebels.

Some observers had widely expected President Gbagbo to reject the accord given the public outcry and opposition by the military, which had called the agreement "humiliating."

In his televised speech Friday, Mr. Gbagbo urged Ivorians to give the peace agreement a chance.

The Ivorian leader said "Let us try it. If it does not work, then we shall see." But, he added, "I hope it works because we are tired of war." Mr. Gbagbo said, "We should be patient and tolerant."

Mr. Gbagbo sought to appease opponents of the accord who were angered by terms that some said violated the country's constitution, a document that was adopted by nearly three years ago.

The Ivorian president said he would work to implement the peace agreement as long as it does not contradict the constitution.

Mr. Gbagbo said that in keeping with the agreement, he would allow Prime Minister Seydou Diarra to be part of a new coalition government. He urged those who had earlier protested Mr. Diarra's nomination to accept him as the new prime minister.

Much of the anger over the accord has centered on reports that rebels would be granted the ministries of defense and the interior. President Gbagbo did not specifically address that issue, saying more remained to be negotiated.

Rebels who control about half the country warned Friday they were ready to resume attacks, and gave the president a one-week ultimatum to implement the agreement.

The prospect of renewed violence in Ivory Coast, the world's largest producer of cocoa and an important business center in West Africa, has prompted thousands of foreigners to leave the country.

France, which was the target of much of the demonstrators' anger over the past two weeks, began flying in reinforcements to the thousands of troops that it already has on the ground.

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