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Ivory Coast's President Will Not Fully Apply UN Resolution

Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo has said he will not apply parts of a new U.N. Security Council resolution he considers unconstitutional. The resolution calls for greater powers to the transitional prime minister to pave the way for elections and help reunite the war-divided nation.

Speaking on Ivory Coast state television Thursday, President Laurent Gbagbo said the U.N. resolution, which Security Council members voted unanimously in favor of Wednesday, removes what has been a chief point of contention during nearly a year of political impasse.

Gbagbo said resolution 1721, as it is known, puts an end, once and for all, to the debate over whether the constitution of a sovereign state can be undermined. He said the Ivorian constitution will be applied.

International mediators in the Ivorian conflict said in September that conflicts between international agreements and Ivory Coast's constitution had hindered the work of transitional Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny.

Banny was appointed last year with a U.N. mandate to disarm northern rebels and southern pro-Gbagbo militias and organize elections. But the polls, seen as a key step towards reuniting the country, divided in two since late 2002, fell through last month.

The new resolution extends the mandates of both President Gbagbo and Prime Minister Banny another year, and calls for elections to be organized by the end of October 2007.

The resolution recognizes the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of Ivory Coast, but also significantly increases the prime minister's power.

Banny, the document says, is to have all necessary powers to carry out his job, including the power to issue laws by decree within governmental and cabinet meetings. It also states the prime minister will have all necessary authority over the country's army and defense forces.

Debate has raged in Ivory Coast over whether those powers, given to the prime minister, constitute in themselves a violation of the constitution.

In his speech, President Gbagbo said, that debate is also over.

All attempts contained here and there in the text of the resolution, he said, and which constitute violations of the Ivorian constitution will not be applied.

Mr. Gbagbo then went on to call upon the people to avoid demonstrations. Many in the country's main city, Abidjan, have, for weeks, feared that the announcement of the Security Council's decision would be accompanied by violent street protests by either pro-Gbagbo militants or opposition youth.

But Mr. Gbagbo said he had given firm instructions to the police to maintain order and had issued a decree permitting the army to intervene if necessary.