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Togo Government, Opposition Leader Meet, Agree to End Violence

The recently elected president of Togo and the main opposition leader have agreed to work to end violence in the country. The meeting of the two leaders, which took place in Rome, has raised hopes that calm will be restored in the small African state.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe agreed to meet with the country's main opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, at the request of the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio.

The community, based in Rome, has often mediated disputes in African states. While Mr. Olympio, who heads the Union of Forces for Change, believes the Togolese elections were not free and fair, he agreed to meet the president.

It was their first meeting since violence broke out in the country following the April 24 polls. During two days of extensive talks in Rome the two leaders managed to reach an agreement on a number of issues.

Mario Giro, one of the negotiators for the Community of Sant'Egidio, was satisfied with the result. "They agreed on three points: to condemn and stop the violence, to free opinion prisoners and political prisoners arrested during the time of the voting process, the recent voting process in April-May; and to cooperate for the return of refugees," he said. "Now there are nearly 60,000 refugees that fled the country after the clashes in April."

Mr. Giro said the community had been trying to get the government and the opposition to the same table for two years. But differences between Mr. Gnassingbe and Mr. Olympio go back many years.

Mr. Olympio's father, Togo's first democratically elected leader, was assassinated in a 1963 coup led by Mr. Gnassingbe's father, who later changed the constitution to bar Mr. Olympio from running for president.

Mr. Olympio wants to see many changes take place in his country. Sant'Egidio negotiator Mario Giro said he wants to see the constitution and electoral code reformed. For the time being, they have decided to continue their dialogue at Sant'Egidio.

Their talks are aimed at getting a political agreement on the main lines of the process of democratisation of the country. They are expected to reconvene in Rome in mid-September.