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Thousands in Ivory Coast Protest French Arrest of Ivorian Politician - 2003-09-07


Rumors of coup plots and recent arrests in France have stirred opposition in Ivory Coast to what is seen as French interference its former colony's faltering peace process.

The continued detention of a northern Ivory Coast politician in France led to a street protest by a crowd estimated at 4,000 people Saturday in northern Ivory Coast. Many of the demonstrators accuse President Laurent Gbagbo of making false accusations in order to take his political opponents out of circulation.

Ibrahim Coulibaly, a well known political figure and a northerner, was arrested in Paris at the end of last month on suspicion of recruiting mercenaries to stage a coup in Ivory Coast.

President Gbagbo has appeared on national television to say that Mr. Coulibaly was plotting to assassinate him.

But the demonstrators on the streets of Ferkessedougou, in the far north of Ivory Coast, claim the president is using France to target his political opponents and destabilize the peace process.

Spokesman Siriki Konate, of the New Forces party representing former rebels that seized the northern half of the country in an uprising last September, accuses president Gbagbo of trying to derail the election schedule. Under a peace accord signed in January of this year, elections are to take place in 2005.

But the reconciliation process appears to be stalled by the arrests of suspected coup plotters in France, followed by a wave of related arrests in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

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