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Interim Liberian Leader Calls for Better Ties with Ivory Coast - 2003-11-24

Liberia's interim leader has called for better ties between his country and neighboring Ivory Coast, as both countries try to pull out of civil wars.

After meeting with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan, Liberian leader Gyude Bryant said it is crucial to improve ties at all levels between the two struggling nations. "We are now committed to peace and have come now to renew the bond of brotherhood between Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire, and specifically between President Gbagbo and myself, so that, from now on, the Liberian people and the Ivorian people will become brothers and sisters again. So, in short, that is why I have come to build on our solidarity, to establish good neighborliness and to ensure that Liberia will now live at peace with Cote d'Ivoire," he said.

Mr. Gbagbo had no comment after the brief meeting at the presidential palace.

Relations between Mr. Gbagbo and former Liberian President Charles Taylor were strained, with each accusing the other of supporting cross-border rebellions.

Liberian rebels ended their insurgency in August, when Mr. Taylor fled to exile in Nigeria. Mr. Bryant is now leading a power-sharing transitional government until elections in 2005.

Ivory Coast also faces elections in 2005, but its peace process is struggling. Ivorian rebels pulled out of a power-sharing government in September, accusing Mr. Gbagbo of blocking the implementation of a French-brokered peace deal.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gbagbo is due to go to Burkina Faso, in another attempt to mend ties with a neighboring country. He has also accused authorities in Burkina Faso of backing the northern-based Ivorian rebels.