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Ivory Coast Former Rebels May Return to Coalition Government - 2003-11-30

Rebel leaders in Ivory Coast are meeting to discuss their possible return to a government of reconciliation. The former rebels, who are now known as the New Forces, are expected to announce whether they will be rejoining the reconciliation government by Monday.

Regional heads of state, France and the European Union have launched diplomatic efforts to try to resuscitate a failing peace accord in Ivory Coast.

After a mini-summit in Accra, Ghana, President Laurent Gbagbo committed 80 gendarmes to protect government ministers, but the New Forces say this does not go far enough.

A New Forces top aide, Cesse Sendou, wants more power divested in the prime minister, Seydou Diarra, as laid out in the provisions of the January peace accord. "We always said that, if we had enough guarantee that the peace process is going to move forward, that we would return," said Mr. Sendou. "But at this point, I don't see how we're going to return."

The New Forces withdrew from a government of reconciliation in September, throwing a January peace accord into doubt.

The New Forces accused President Gbagbo of flouting the peace agreement by making unilateral appointments to Cabinet posts. Mr. Gbagbo says the rebels should disarm.

The New Forces control the northern half of Ivory Coast since staging a rebellion in September 2002. France has sent 4,000 troops to try to maintain a shaky peace in the former colony.