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Ceremony to Replace Ivory Coast Rebel Minister Does Not Take Place - 2004-05-24


A ceremony to replace Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro as communications minister in the country's reconciliation government has not taken place as scheduled. Mr. Soro has issued a statement saying his group no longer recognizes President Laurent Gbagbo, who he accused of having killed the peace process.

The ceremony was due to begin before midday at the Ivory Coast ministry of information, but only members of the press wandered the empty halls of the 22nd floor where the office of the communications minister remained locked.

The office used to belong to Guillaume Soro, the leader of the New Forces rebel movement. The ceremony was to give the position to a member of President Gbagbo's ruling party, the Ivorian Popular Front.

Last Tuesday, President Gbagbo removed Mr. Soro along with two other ministers from rebel and opposition parties from the national reconciliation government, replacing them temporarily with members of his own party.

President Gbagbo said in the statement delivered on state television that the decision had been made by Prime Minister Seydou Diarra. But in a letter to the president made public Friday, Mr. Diarra denied having any involvement in the decision.

Mr. Soro issued a statement saying the New Forces no longer recognize President Gbagbo and will only acknowledge Prime Minister Diarra as a representative of the Ivorian government. He also said that President Gbagbo had effectively killed the peace process in Ivory Coast.

A statement last week by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged all parties to continue to work together. He said maintaining the national reconciliation government is essential and that the parties should end the violence and confrontations that have derailed the peace process.

The national reconciliation government was created with the signing of a peace accord in January 2003, which ended the civil war in the still divided West African nation.

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