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Ivory Coast Rebels Reject October Elections

Ivory Coast's New Forces rebels have said they will not accept elections scheduled for October 30, which were meant to put an end to the country's civil war. The New Forces say President Laurent Gbagbo must leave office by midnight October 30, or else they will take up arms against him.

The New Forces rebels, who control the northern part of Ivory Coast, have stepped up their rhetoric against President Laurent Gbagbo. In an interview with VOA Friday, the New Forces spokesperson Mr. Sidiki Konate said that, if Mr. Gbagbo remains in power after October 30, the rebels will force him out.

"We will use any means that we have not to accept this situation, and I think we will not be alone," said Mr. Konate. "The whole nation will have to say something because we cannot accept that this minority continue to lead our destiny and we will fight by any means."

In a statement issued late Thursday, Ivory Coasts New Forces rebels said they would not accept the results of the planned October 30 elections because, as they see it, the conditions do not exist to hold free and fair elections on that date. They say President Gbagbo must leave office, and want a transitional period in government after the election date.

President Gbagbo has previously said that if elections do not take place, he will remain president.

The president's spokesman, Desire Tagro, said the government will not react to the rebels' statement until the mediator to the conflict, South African President Thabo Mbeki, gives his report to the United Nations Security Council at the end of August.

The New Forces said their decision not to accept the elections was based on conclusions of four commissions, which evaluated the electoral process, disarmament, mediation and the implementation of peace accords.

The October ballot was meant to put an end to Ivory Coast's conflict, but the rebels say the conditions for fair elections do not exist.

The New Forces recently questioned mediation efforts by South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, saying he is not impartial. They say Mr. Gbagbo's changes in nationality and election laws do not conform to the peace accords, yet Mr. Mbeki accepted them.

The rebel spokesman, Mr. Konate, says the rebels do not trust Mr. Mbeki because he has not denied published reports that South Africa sold arms to President Gbagbo.

"So long as information is not clear we [are] of the opinion that something is wrong, and the people, our population, do not trust the mediation so they need to show us that he did not sell arms to Mr. Gbagbo Laurent and he has to show us that he wants to work for peace in Ivory Coast," added Mr. Konate.

The New Forces statement also said the rebels were unhappy with the disarmament process, particularly the failure of the pro-government militias to give up their arms.