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Ivory Coast Peace Deal Stalls Again - 2004-09-30


The Ivory Coast parliament has failed to meet the September 30 deadline to pass a series of political reforms, putting the divided country's fragile peace process in limbo.

United Nations officials have expressed disappointment that benchmarks set by the latest peace deal signed in late July in Accra have been ignored.

The peacekeeping mission's deputy head in Ivory Coast, Alan Doss, says it is the combined responsibility of President Laurent Gbagbo, rebels and Ivorian political parties to fully implement the agreement.

"The benchmarks were set out by the parties who went to Accra and signed, witnessed by a number of heads of state of the region," said Alan Doss. "That was a road map, if you will, and, obviously, the achievement of the main goals are very important. We will continue to work with the parties to the extent that we can help."

Lawmakers held a reception this week as they ended a special parliamentary session. There was not much to celebrate though, as they passed just one of many laws mandated by the Accra deal. That was on the financing of political parties. Important changes, on nationality and eligibility requirements and the establishment of a balanced electoral commission for 2005 elections, either were not discussed, or became bogged down, mainly because of challenges from Mr. Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front.

But the president's wife, Simone Gbagbo, the congressional head of that group, tells VOA she is also disappointed the peace process has stalled.

She blames the national reconciliation government, which includes rebels and opposition leaders.

She says government ministers should come to parliament, submit their proposed reforms and discuss them, so amendments can be made, as is usually the process. Instead, she says, government ministers have ignored these debates.

A new parliamentary session will open next week.

A member of the opposition, Yves Fofana, for his part, blames Mr. Gbagbo's party for blocking the process.

He says, if parliament does not simply validate all points of the accord, it will just perpetuate the problems, which led to civil war.

The rebels started their insurgency in September 2002, seeking equal rights for many northerners now treated as second-class citizens.

Rebel leaders, in control of more than half the country, say they will not begin disarmament as scheduled October 15, unless all reforms are passed. In recent days, they have been meeting outside their headquarters to plan their strategy.

The presence of 6,000 U.N. peacekeepers and 4,000 French troops has effectively ended fighting in the world's leading cocoa producer, but gross human rights violations by armed groups continue both in the government-held south and rebel-held north.

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