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Ivory Coast Warring Factions React to UN Decision on President

Ivory Coast's warring factions are divided in their reactions to a U.N. Security Council endorsement of a plan to avert a leadership crisis in the country. The plan recommends the current president remain in power after his mandate expires this month, a provision rebels and opposition leaders deem unacceptable.

A representative of President Laurent Gbagbo's political party, Eugene Djue, says the decision taken by the U.N. Security Council in New York Friday is not a surprise.

He says, under the constitution, President Gbagbo has the right to stay in power when his mandate expires later this month, and that the United Nations has simply confirmed that.

The Security Council voted unanimously to back an African Union proposal that would give the president 12 more months to organize elections, after polls scheduled for October were deemed impossible. The deal would also replace current Prime Minister Seydou Diarra.

But opposition leaders say all real power needs to be transferred to the new prime minister. Mr. Gbagbo, they say, should now be considered a transitional leader, and, therefore, barred from standing for re-election.

Joel NGuessan is a member of the opposition bloc.

"We expect that the United Nations will give all the power to the prime minister," he said. "It is very important. But if not, it will be a problem for us."

He said the opposition would wait to review the final text of the Security Council decision before taking a final position. But the A.U. recommendation, though it supported enforcing the prime minister's role as the head of the power-sharing government, did not give details of specific powers.

A spokesman for the rebel New Forces, who have controlled the northern half of the country since the beginning of the war three years ago, Cisse Sindou, says the U.N. position could cause more problems in the future.

"We are really not happy about the Security Council decision," he said. "But let's wait and see. The problem here is, leaving President Gbagbo in power is going to lead to bloodshed in Ivory Coast."

The African Union was also pushing for an increase in the number of U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast. Nearly 7,000 U.N. soldiers are currently in the divided country. Most patrol a buffer zone separating rebels from government troops in the south.

The Security Council said it would be ready to consider a request for more peacekeepers in the future, but only after a careful study of conditions on the ground and of evidence of meaningful progress toward implementation of peace agreements already in existence.

The stipulation was pushed for by the United States, which contributes more than a quarter of the budget for the United Nations peacekeeping missions.