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Ivory Coast's Presidential Rivals in Final Day of Campaigning


People watch on a big screen as Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo talks during a live debate on national television with Ivory Coast opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan, 25 Nov 2010

People watch on a big screen as Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo talks during a live debate on national television with Ivory Coast opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan, 25 Nov 2010

Ivory Coast's presidential rivals are in their final day of campaigning leading up to Sunday's runoff election.

President Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Ouattara attended rallies Friday, a day after holding an unprecedented televised debate.

In the debate, both candidates appealed to their supporters to stay calm despite rising tensions in recent days.

President Gbagbo also said he would impose a curfew Sunday after the vote to help prevent violence. He said security forces will clear the streets so there is no fighting and no interference with the transmission of ballots to electoral officials.

Clashes between supporters of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara, a former prime minister, have left at least one person dead and several injured in recent days.

The international community has urged rival parties in Ivory Coast to exercise restraint ahead of Sunday's election.

The United Nations Wednesday said it is sending an additional 500 peacekeepers to Ivory Coast ahead of the election to help maintain order. The troops and two military helicopters are being temporarily reassigned from neighboring Liberia.

Ivory Coast is voting for a new president for the first time since the 2002 civil war.

The first round of the election in October passed without incident. Mr. Gbagbo won with 38 percent of the vote. Mr. Ouattara was second with 32 percent. The runoff hinges on which candidate will attract the 25 percent of voters who backed the third-place candidate, former President Henri Konan Bedie, in the first round.

President Gbagbo's term officially ended in 2005. But elections were postponed several times since then because of failure to disarm rebels and disputes over who is eligible to vote.

The rebels, known as the New Forces, attempted to depose the government of President Gbagbo in September 2002, while he was out of the country. The two sides agreed in January of 2003 to create a unity government, but the country remained effectively divided. A fragile peace accord was signed in 2007.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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