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South Africa Says It Will Pursue Ivory Coast Mediation


South Africa's foreign ministry says it will pursue mediation efforts in divided Ivory Coast, despite renewed delays in implementing a peace deal and calls to postpone elections. Earlier, a top South African official had said these efforts would stop.

The new statement released from across the continent in Pretoria late Tuesday said South Africa would continue its mediation within the mandate of the African Union and the United Nations.

Just hours earlier, South Africa's deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, had said his country would relinquish these duties.

He also 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.

The conflicting statements come ahead of a Wednesday Security Council meeting in New York that will discuss the situation and possible sanctions. Ivorian parties have been repeatedly unable to implement a peace deal, first brokered in France in early 2003.

South Africa's defense minister will make a formal presentation.

Rebels and the opposition accuse South Africa of siding with the Ivorian president. They say Mr. Gbagbo is changing agreements so they become meaningless and to prevent free and fair elections still scheduled for October 30.

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 don't have their identity cards, they cannot vote. 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," he said.

Officials from the two warring sides say they fear hostilities could resume, even with the presence of about 10-thousand U.N and French peacekeepers on the ground.

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, as well as militia activity, raising fears of large-scale violence.