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Ivory Coast Prime Minister to Meet with Rebels


Ivory Coast's new prime minister is in Ghana for talks with Ivorian rebels. The prime minister, who is putting together a new coalition government for Ivory Coast, is trying to determine what role the insurgents will have in the new administration.

Ivorian Prime Minister Seydou Diarra arrived in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, Friday, for discussions with leaders of the main insurgent group, the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast.

He was to meet with the group's executive secretary, Guilllaume Soro, who earlier this week told diplomats he did not want the meeting to take place in Ivory Coast because he feared for his safety. Ghanaian leader John Kufuor was to preside over Friday's discussions.

Seydou Diarra took up his duties as prime minister Monday, after he was named by President Laurent Gbagbo under the terms of a peace accord reached last month in France.

Under the accord, the prime minister is to form a government that represents all factions of Ivory Coast's political scene, including rebels.

Mr. Diarra is a long-time diplomat, and Friday's meeting in Accra is likely to require all his diplomatic skills.

The rebels say the accord entitles them to the key ministries of defense and the interior. The government rejects giving those ministries to the rebels, and has orchestrated massive protests recently, in which government supporters have called on President Gbagbo to reject the accord.

The president, in a long-delayed speech a week ago, said he would abide only by the spirit of the agreement, and said some aspects of the accord remained open to negotiation. A presidential adviser on Wednesday said the rebels would not get the posts they want.

Last Friday, rebels gave the government a one-week ultimatum to implement the accord, or face new attacks. Rebels on Friday said they would march on the main city, Abidjan, if their demands are not met by Sunday.

Speaking as they left their headquarters in the central Ivory Coast city of Bouake, insurgent leaders said they would not negotiate further.

The five-month war has killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and left the world's largest cocoa producer divided between the rebel-controlled north, and the loyalist south.

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