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Ivorian Leaders to Decide Poll Date in Coming Weeks


Ivorian leaders and main opposition candidates said Wednesday they will decide on a new date for the country's long-delayed presidential poll in the coming weeks.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo met with main opposition candidates, Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Ouattara, Wednesday in Abidjan to get the country back on track for presidential elections.

The vote has already been pushed back six times since civil war split the country in half in 2002.

Leaving the meeting, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said the leaders recognized the "urgent need" to organize the poll.

Soro says they asked him, as prime minister, to follow up on the ongoing verification of the voter list and ensure it is finished within the given delay. At the meeting, Soro says, they also charged the head of the independent electoral commission to begin without delay the examination of contested names on the voter list so that a definitive voter list can be published as soon as possible.

Of the more than six million names on the provisional voter list, the eligibility of more than one million voters is still being disputed, many on grounds of nationality.

The opposition continues to call for a definitive voter list to be published by the end of July.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of peacekeeping forces in Ivory Coast until the end of the year to accompany the country in the organization and holding of elections.

The U.N. Security Council said it was concerned by repeated delays and called for elections to be held before October 22nd.

Elected in 2000, President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in October 2005. His political opponents have accused him of stalling elections to remain in power.

Opposition leaders have called for presidential elections to be held by October and warn of chaos, if they are not.

Prime Minister Soro said the president and opposition leaders intend to meet again in several weeks to decide on a new poll date, with the request from the independent electoral commission.

Sources in Abidjan say Ivorians are growing increasingly tired after years of delay, and especially after watching Guineans go to the polls last Sunday just 18 months after a military coup.

In Ivory Coast, the publication of a final voter list is not the only obstacle remaining. The disarmament of the country's former rebel factions and pro-government militias is also behind schedule.

Electoral violence in February of this year left seven dead and dozens wounded, and observers warn that threats of conflict and instability remain in Ivory Coast.

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