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Ivory Coast President Fires Head of State Television, Accuses PM of Seditious Statement

The head of Ivory Coast's state radio and television has been fired after the president decided a critical statement broadcast last Monday was seditious. For VOA Franz Wild has more from Abidjan on the showdown between the president and the prime minister.

The statement that cost Yacouba Kébé his job was read on Ivorian Radio and Television, or RTI, by Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny.

Mr. Banny criticized President Laurent Gbagbo's decision Sunday to reinstate three senior officials he had suspended in September, in connection with the toxic waste scandal, which led to 10 deaths and over a hundred-thousand seeking medical help. Hundreds of tons of lethal liquid were illegally dumped at sites around Abidjan.

Mr. Gbagbo reinstated the three as the heads of the port, customs and Abidjan district respectively.

The prime minister said on RTI Monday this decision presents a "major obstacle in the fight against impunity." Special forces police rushed to the RTI headquarters immediately to ensure the statement was not aired again.

Speaking on RTI, presidential spokesman Desire Tagro announced Kebe's dismissal, saying that President Gbagbo believes allowing such a seditious statement to be broadcast - a statement which calls for the non-application of a presidential decree - was a serious error.

Tagro also said the president, not the prime minister, was in charge of public media, and RTI should not be allowed to broadcast statements that go against the president.

Mr. Banny was appointed as prime minister a year ago, with the hope he may organize elections and bring peace to the war-tron Ivory Coast. A U.N. Security Council resolution recently extended his powers, giving him control of the army.

But the army chief has pledged allegiance to Mr. Gbagbo.