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Nigerian President In Ivory Coast On Mediation Mission


Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has come to war-divided Ivory Coast on a mission to help resolve a dispute over the implementation of a recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution. However, the visit has been marred by the cancellation of scheduled meetings with northern rebels.

An army band at Abidjan's airport Friday struggled to have its rendition of Nigeria's national anthem heard above the roar of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's official jet.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo rolled out the red carpet for the Nigerian leader, who is also the head of the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS.

Ivory Coast's president, opposition parties, and the New Forces rebels are currently in a dispute over the provisions of a recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution.

The resolution supported giving President Gbagbo up to 12 additional months in which to organize presidential elections, after an original October 30 election date was deemed untenable.

Mr. Gbagbo's elected term ran out at the end of last month. The New Forces say they now no longer recognize Mr. Gbagbo as president.

The U.N. resolution also called for the naming of a new prime minister acceptable to all sides. The main goal of Mr. Obasanjo's visit is to help mediate discussions over who will be chosen for the job.

Opposition party leaders say the new prime minister must come from among their ranks and must have significantly increased powers.

However, the New Forces unilaterally appointed their leader, Guillaume Soro, prime minister last month. Mr. Soro is now in Europe promoting his claim to the job.

A planned trip to the de facto rebel capital Bouake by President Obasanjo to meet the rebel leader had to be cancelled at the last minute. A rebel spokesman told VOA Mr. Soro was scheduled to meet with Mr. Obasanjo in Germany soon.

Mr. Obasanjo was expected to talk with United Nations, ECOWAS, and African Union mediation teams, as well as Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, opposition leaders, and President Gbagbo in a whirlwind day of meetings.

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