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Divided Ivory Coast Gets Banker as New Prime Minister

African mediators have named the head of West Africa's central bank, Charles Konan Banny, as the new prime minister of divided Ivory Coast. His mission is to reunify the country and prepare elections before the end of October 2006.

Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Oluyemi Adeniji read the statement announcing Mr. Banny's appointment.

Mr. Banny, the son of a planter with little political experience, had been expected to make a run at the presidency. But, as transitional prime minister, Mr. Adeniji said, he is not eligible to run in the presidential election.

Under the U.N. resolution 1633, Mr. Banny will have expanded powers he will need to get northern rebels and southern militias to disarm.

Rebels, who control more than half of the former French colony, have accused Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo of blocking successive peace deals, especially to give more northerners citizenship and the right to vote.

Sidiki Konate, the spokesman for the rebels calling themselves New Forces, told VOA he hopes Mr. Banny will be able to make good use of his position.

"He needs some power to work and he gets power according to what we hear this evening," he says. "He received his power not from Mr. Gbagbo Laurent, but from the U.N. resolution so we hope that the people, the U.N. will be able to help him to fulfill his mission. Mr. Banny is not the choice of the Forces Nouvelles (New Forces). He's not the choice of Mr. Gbagbo Laurent. He's the choice of the international community and we hope that they would give him the power to work in order to bring us to the election."

Opposition leaders also said they were satisfied.

The head of the mediation delegation, Nigerian President said it should be a day of hope for Ivory Coast.

"We seek destruction to be replaced by reconstruction. We see conflict to be replaced by reconciliation. We see a totally new Cote d'Ivoire emerging from what I would call the ashes of the old Cote d'Ivoire," Mr. Obasanjo said.

The U.N. resolution has given Mr. Gbagbo up to an extra year to stay in power.