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Ivory Coast President Asks Youth Group to Cancel Planned Protest - 2003-05-23


Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has asked militant youth groups to cancel a demonstration planned for Saturday. The groups are calling for the disarmament of rebels.

For the second time this week, President Gbagbo met with youth groups opposed to the power sharing peace process with rebels.

These groups say the rebels shouldn't be allowed to participate in the reconciliation government while still being armed and controlling half of Ivory Coast.

Speaking to the youth groups late Thursday, Mr. Gbagbo said he needs two weeks of calm to convince international financial institutions to resume work in Ivory Coast.

He said previous marches have helped his cause but that now some serenity is needed for the good of Ivory Coast.

The Alliance of Young Patriots reacted to the request by saying that for the sake of peace, they will sacrifice themselves and refrain from marching on Saturday.

However, other groups calling themselves armed political movements say they will continue preparations to prevent rebels from entering the government.

Toure Moussa Zeguen from The Group of Patriots for Peace said several dozen units of volunteer recruits are continuing their training in the streets of Abidjan.

"Our movement is not really worried about having demonstrations," he said. "We are soldiers, we're planning to confront the rebels. From time to time we take part in some meetings just to make our point of view known, but we are really training to go on the front to fight."

Wednesday, police prevented his group from holding a meeting on a public square in central Abidjan because they didn't give proper notification. Several hundred meters away, police looked on as other militants tore up train tracks linking southern Ivory Coast to northern rebel-held zones.

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