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Former Ruling Party May Quit Ivory Coast Reconciliation Government - 2003-11-05

The former ruling party in Ivory Coast is threatening to withdraw from the reconciliation government, accusing President Laurent Gbagbo of human-rights violations. The threat comes as northern-based rebels are refusing to take back their seats in the government.

The secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, Alphonse Djedje Mady, says the party's seven ministers are ready to walk out of the government in the coming days.

In a statement broadcast on state television late Tuesday, Mr. Mady accused President Gbagbo of using terror and incitement to murder, as methods to stifle opposition.

Mr. Mady says the government must restore the rule of law, guarantee freedom of expression and ensure security. He also calls for the release of jailed political activists.

The Democratic Party of Ivory Coast was in power from independence in 1960 until it was overthrown in a coup in 1999. One of its members has been detained since last month on charges of plotting to assassinate President Gbagbo.

The party says the charges are a fabrication. Many other party members have complained of receiving death threats from security officers.

Mr. Gbagbo said Tuesday he was tired of what he called political gamesmanship.

He says that when he was in the opposition, he also was arrested. He says if the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast has a problem with an arrest, they should get a lawyer and dispute the case in court.

The reconciliation government was set up earlier this year as part of a French-mediated peace deal to end an insurgency by northern-based rebels.

But the rebels pulled out of the government in September, accusing Mr. Gbagbo of failing to implement the accord. The deal includes giving voting rights and nationality papers to many northern Ivorians who are now considered foreigners.

The rebels have refused to return to the government and disarm, even though President Gbagbo promised last week he would start introducing legislation in line with the accord.

The U-N peace envoy in Ivory Coast, Albert Tevoedjre, describes the latest developments as a spiraling climate of hate.

"It constitutes one of the problems we face in all this, the climate of opinion in Cote d'Ivoire. When you want to have peace, when you want to build peace there is an opinion for peace. If they do not go quick enough, if they do not comply to what they themselves agreed to that might create a real civil strife."

Mr. Teveodjre said this climate contributed to the murder of a French radio journalist last month by a police officer.

West African leaders trying to save the peace deal want to hold a summit of all Ivorian parties in Ghana next week, but it is uncertain whether President Gbagbo will attend.