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South Africa Ends Mediation Role in Ivory Coast

South Africa says it is abandoning mediation efforts in divided Ivory Coast after renewed delays in implementing a peace deal and calls to postpone elections. Warring sides now fear a peaceful solution will be impossible.

Across the continent in Pretoria, the South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, said his country was concluding its mediation efforts and would hand over these duties to the African Union and the United Nations.

He said northern Ivorian rebels and the opposition were refusing to honor their side of the deal, even though Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo had agreed to what he called South African formulations.

Mr. Pahad called the obstacles legalistic gymnastics. The Security Council will discuss the situation Wednesday in New York, where Ivorian warring parties face the threat of sanctions for being unable to implement a peace deal, first mediated in early 2003 in France.

Rebels and the opposition say Mr. Gbagbo is failing to abide by the accords, by changing agreements enough so they become meaningless and by not allowing free and fair elections on October 30, as scheduled.

They have called for Mr. Gbagbo's removal and the establishment of a transitional government.

A rebel supporter, Timithee Ali Baba, says rebels are refusing to disarm, because he says under Mr. Gbagbo's conditions, very few northerners would be able to vote.

"They do not have their identity cards, they cannot vote," he said. "We know that some materials have been destroyed and we do not have the specific statistics about the different people which may vote. It is impossible in this situation, it is clearly impossible to organize elections even if the international community wants it."

An opposition spokesman told VOA it is clear this was the failure of yet another mediation effort, after previous attempts by the former colonial power France as well as numerous West African countries collapsed.

Meanwhile, a staunch supporter of President Gbagbo, Charles Ble Goude, the leader of the so-called Young Patriots, said he felt vindicated. Both the opposition spokesman and Mr. Ble Goude refused to be recorded, saying the information was so important, they needed more time to make full statements.

Other officials from the two warring sides, speaking anonymously, said they feared hostilities could resume, even with the presence of about 10,000 U.N and French peacekeepers.

Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, has been torn by growing ethnic divisions in many parts of the country, since the start of the rapid insurgency nearly three years ago, raising fears of large-scale violence.