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Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso Army Chiefs Discuss Reopening Border - 2003-06-13

Army chiefs from Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso are meeting in Abidjan to discuss reopening their borders, closed for eight months because of the Ivorian civil war. Ivorian government spokesman Patrick Achi says the talks that are taking place until Saturday mark an important step in the reconciliation process.

Mr. Achi says the military chiefs hope the border can reopen by the end of the month. It has been closed since the start of the Ivorian insurgency on September 19. Ivorian officials have repeatedly accused Burkina Faso of being behind the rebellion, even though the charge has been rejected.

Mr. Achi said, when the border reopens, Ivorian posts will be manned by rebel forces, soldiers and peacekeepers from France and West Africa.

Rebels still control the northern half of Ivory Coast, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea, all important trading partners during times of peace.

Earlier this week, for the first time in eight months, a convoy of trucks traveled from the southern commercial capital, Abidjan, to Mali.

The Ivorian transport minister, Anaky Kobenan, says the war totally shut down commerce between southern Ivory Coast, the north of the country and neighboring countries.

Mr. Kobenan said he hopes commercial travel can resume throughout Ivory Coast, and with neighboring countries, but he added that challenges remain.

Rebels in Ivory Coast are refusing to disarm, until the reconciliation government agrees on new ministers for defense and the interior. Meanwhile, militants in the south opposed to the power-sharing peace process have been carrying out daily sabotage operations on the railroad linking Abidjan to Burkina Faso.

They say trains from the north could be what they call "trains of death," carrying armed rebels trying once again to overthrow the government.