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Ivory Coast Rebels, Main Opposition Party Pull Out of Power-Sharing Government

Rebels in Ivory Coast and a main opposition party have pulled out of the power-sharing government after a violent crackdown by security forces against opposition protesters. At least six people were killed in clashes with government forces. The protesters say there were many more deaths as well as 100 people injured.

After Thursday's violence, the rebels known as the New Forces decided to withdraw from the national unity government. Rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate says the New Forces want no part in a government which he says is turning into a dictatorship.

Mr. Konate says government soldiers should not be attacking civilians when they set out to march peacefully.

A main opposition party, the Rally of the Republicans, also said it is pulling out of the government. Its spokesman, Cisse Bacongo, said the party would work to organize a new protest march to press for implementation of the peace deal signed 14 months ago. The agreement includes giving voting rights to many people in northern Ivory Coast who are now considered immigrants.

The other main political party in Ivory Coast, known as the PDCI, withdrew from the government earlier this month, accusing President Laurent Gbagbo of refusing to share power. But a spokesman for the party said because the march had turned so deadly, it would no longer encourage its supporters to protest.

Early in the day, the Ivorian army, police and presidential guards deployed heavily throughout neighborhoods in Abidjan, using tear gas and bullets to disperse protesters who were trying to march.

Late Thursday, in neighborhoods where protesters had started to gather, there were burning barricades, overturned stalls and corpses lying in courtyards.

One young protester, Brice, who saw one of his friends shot to death, blames President Gbagbo for the violence.

"I think it was an order from the president because he said that all people who come to march will be considered like a terrorist, someone who wants to kill the president and it's why all the military police were very angry," he said.

Military officials said they were provoked by young militants burning tires and throwing rocks.

A spokesman for the armed forces, Aka Ngoran, says three policemen were among those killed.

Mr. Ngoran said two policemen were cut up by machetes and another was shot dead, while a fourth is missing. He also said some militants attacked buildings where families of policemen live, but that security was quickly restored throughout the city.

President Gbagbo has called for rebels to disarm before the rest of the peace deal is implemented. He also says key points should be submitted to a referendum. The rebels say they will not disarm until the accord is implemented.

The developments come just days before United Nations peacekeepers are due to deploy in Ivory Coast. The country has been divided in two since an insurgency by mainly northern officers in September, 2002.