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Ivory Coast Cease-fire Goes into Effect - 2003-05-04

A cease-fire covering all of Ivory Coast has gone into effect, aimed at ending nearly eight months of civil war. All sides in the conflict are trying to contain recent fighting near the border with Liberia.

State television announced the Ivory Coast war is effectively over.

A total cease-fire was signed Saturday by the army and rebels, now joined together under the name, New Forces.

The head of military strategy for the Ivorian army, Colonel Kadio Miezou Patrice, said it is reasonable to talk about the end of the war. He said Ivorians are intelligent and that now that they agree on peace, they want to make sure Ivory Coast can rebuild itself as the economic powerhouse of West Africa.

The deal calls for rebels, the Ivorian army, and several hundred French and African peacekeepers to contain dissident fighters in the west of the country, the only remaining conflict area in recent months.

Both sides have used Liberian mercenaries who are now opposed to ending the war. The deal calls for all sides to disarm these fighters and force them back to neighboring Liberia.

The plans have the official approval of Liberian President Charles Taylor, even though he has been accused of supporting Liberian mercenaries who fought alongside Ivorian rebels.

Just hours before the cease-fire took effect, Ivorian rebels accused Liberians fighting for government forces of trying to recapture the rebel-held town of Danane, near the border with Liberia.

But rebel spokesman Antoine Beugre said he believes the cease-fire will hold.

Mr. Beugre said he sees no reason why the Ivorian sides in the conflict would want to resume fighting.

A peace deal reached in France in January is being slowly implemented, including setting up a power-sharing government that includes rebels and the opposition.

Ivory Coast has been effectively divided in two between rebel and government-held zones since the conflict began in September.