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Ivorian Opposition Promises Peaceful March


Opposition political parties and rebels in Ivory Coast insist a planned march on Thursday against President Laurent Gbagbo will be peaceful, despite calls from the United Nations for its cancellation.

Organizers of the march met Tuesday with the U.N. special representative for Ivory Coast Albert Tevoedjre, giving him assurances protesters will behave responsibly when they take to the streets.

One of the organizers, Cisse Bacongo, also a spokesman for the opposition Rally of the Republicans, says demonstrators will wear white to show they are non-violent and in favor of peace.

Mr. Bacongo says the protest is not aimed at insulting anyone or destroying anything, but rather at calling on President Gbagbo to fully implement the power-sharing peace deal reached in France more than a year ago.

The march is going ahead in spite of a presidential decree banning it, and a statement by the U.N. representative, Mr. Tevoedjre, on Monday warning against civil disobedience, which he said could lead to uncontrollable terror.

Mr. Bacongo says he was very disappointed by that statement. He says the top U.N. official in Ivory Coast should mediate rather than favoring one side over the other.

The concern about violence comes in part because youth groups close to Mr. Gbagbo have vowed to block demonstrators from gathering at their chosen protest site near the presidential palace.

Appearing on state television late Monday, the head of the armed forces, Mathias Doue, appealed to organizers of the march to put aside what he called partisan interests and cancel it in the interest of peace.

Army and police commanders have said they will use force to prevent anyone from approaching the place where the protest is to be held. On Monday, Mr. Gbagbo signed a decree mobilizing the army to help police ensure security in the coming days.

The protesters want new laws on nationality to enable more of their supporters to vote and run for office, as promised in the peace accord. But President Gbagbo says rebels who control the north must disarm before other aspects of the peace deal can be considered.

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