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Ivorian President Pushing for Disarmament to Begin October 15 - 2004-10-13


The president of Ivory Coast is calling all the key signatories of the country's peace accord to Abidjan for a meeting late Wednesday, just two days before disarmament is due to begin.

During an address on state television late Tuesday, Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo said disarmament will begin as scheduled on Friday.

President Gbagbo says all military factions including members of the New Forces rebels have agreed to participate in the disarmament campaign.

But a spokesman for the political arm of the New Forces, Sidiki Konate says the rebels are prepared to disarm only after agreed upon political reforms take hold. "This is not a question of date. It is not a question of the 15th. It is a question of the peace process," he said. "And all the people who signed the several agreements know that that means we have to talk about the political reforms as the first thing to do and then we can talk about the military reforms, that means disarmament. Then we can talk about the organization of new elections in Ivory Coast. This is the three parts of the peace process and one part brings the second part and the second part brings the third part."

The most recent peace agreement was signed in Ghana in July by representatives of all the political parties and rebel movements in Ivory Coast.

The accord set the end of September as the date for political reforms to be implemented. President Gbagbo says his government is moving forward with the reforms, so disarmament should move ahead as scheduled.

Mr. Gbagbo says the beginning of disarmament does not signal the end of discussions on political reforms. He says the military factions should begin the disarmament process as scheduled on Friday and any changes to the constitution will be made by referendum.

The key political reforms address the issues of land ownership rights, national identity and eligibility for the presidency. The constitution stipulates that only a citizen born to a mother and father who are both Ivory Coast nationals can run for the presidency, which prevents many northerners, including key opposition figures, from being eligible.

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