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UN Seeks Dialogue in Ivory Coast - 2004-06-23

A 14-member U.N. Security Council delegation visiting West Africa is urging the divided Ivory Coast to resolve its political differences through dialogue. The visiting diplomats say the international community is losing patience with Ivory Coast's growing political divisions.

The Security Council delegation is meeting with leaders who fought on the opposing sides of the civil war, as well as political adversaries whose wrangling has split the power-sharing government and blocked the implementation of the 18-month-old peace agreement.

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere says it is up to Ivorians to settle their differences and up to their leaders to revive the unity government. He says the international community is increasingly wary of Ivory Coast's internal wrangling.

He says Ivory Coast alone can resolve its political problems. He says it is up to its leaders to restore Ivory Coast to its former role as an economic power in western Africa.

Prior to the delegation's arrival, President Laurent Gbagbo, opposition parties and northern-based rebels all said they are open to renewed dialogue.

The opposition and northern rebels dropped out of the unity government in late March, following the brutal suppression of a pro-peace demonstration by government forces. A U.N. report blamed the highest state authorities for the violence in which more than 100 people died.

Rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate says he welcomes the increased U.N. involvement.

"We think today they have to play their game and this game is to make pressure, pressure against all the partners of this agreement and more pressure against Mr. Gbagbo, so that he engages himself to work for peace and to work for the application of the Marcoussis agreement," he said.

But, more bloodshed has been reported in the rebel-held north where clashes between rival rebel groups earlier this week claimed 20 lives. The rebels blame President Gbagbo for fomenting divisions among the northern rebels, but the president, in a statement released Tuesday, denied involvement in the renewed violence.