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Ivory Coast Rebels Shun 2nd Unity Government Meeting

For the second time in a row, rebels in Ivory Coast have skipped a meeting of the new unity government. The rebel factions did send a delegation, but only to carry a message to the prime minister.

In theory, it is a government of national unity, but so far real unity has been elusive.

The new Ivorian cabinet met for a second time without the participation of the three rebel factions who control half the country. A rebel spokesman said a top-level delegation would be sent to the capital, Yamoussoukro. But the rebel representatives were not sent to take part in the meeting. They went to express their reservations about the process to Prime Minister Seydou Diarra.

According to the French news agency AFP, those concerns include the delegation of powers, the security of rebel ministers and the functioning of the 15-member "security council," which is supposed to oversee the key ministries of defense and interior.

The rebels did not decide until the very last minute whether to attend the cabinet meeting. The decision to boycott again came after two days of urgent talks in the rebel stronghold of Bouake.

The three rebel factions have submitted a list of members they have nominated to take up the cabinet posts allotted to them under the power-sharing deal signed in Ghana earlier this month. They have proposed northern rebel leader Guillaume Soro as communications minister, and senior rebel commanders Michel Gueu and Tuo Fozie as ministers of sports and youth affairs.

One of the main opposition parties, which also skipped the first cabinet meeting last week, did participate in the second one. Members of the Rally of Republicans party returned to Ivory Coast earlier this week after months in exile, saying they were satisfied with the arrangements that had been made for their security.

The new unity government is designed to end the six-month-old civil war in Ivory Coast. The fighting has split the country in half and threatened to destabilize the entire region. Thousands of people have been killed, and the United Nations says up to a million people have been forced out of their homes by the violence.