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Ivory Coast Minister Dismissed by Former Rebels for Attending Cabinet Meeting - 2003-09-26

Ivory Coast's former rebels have dismissed one of their ministers in the reconciliation government for attending a Cabinet meeting, after their group withdrew from the government.

The minister for small and medium-sized enterprises, Roger Banchi, has been dropped as a ministerial representative for the rebels, now known as the New Forces.

The announcement was made late Thursday, and leaves Mr. Banchi's role in doubt, because he is now not affiliated with any of the signatories of the Marcoussis Peace Accord that led to the creation of the reconciliation government.

Mr. Banchi was photographed by the national press smiling and shaking hands with President Gbagbo at Thursday's Cabinet meeting. His attendance flouted the announcement made earlier this week by New Forces leader Guillaume Soro, that the group was withdrawing from the government.

Roger Banchi was the representative of the Popular Movement of the Greater West, one of the rebel groups that joined under the banner of the New Forces to form a political presence in the new government, after a rebellion plunged the country into crisis a year ago.

Mr. Banchi has been in trouble with the New Forces leadership before. Mr. Banchi is from the western region of Ivory Coast, and is not seen as a central player in the New Forces leadership, which is based around the central city of Bouake.

The New Forces suspended their involvement in the government of reconciliation and the disarmament program earlier this week, in protest at what they perceive as President Gbagbo's efforts to stall the peace process and to give key posts to his own supporters.