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Burkina Faso Launches Mediation Attempt for Ivory Coast


High-level rebel and presidential delegations from divided Ivory Coast have started meetings in Burkina Faso in a renewed attempt to end more than four years of stalled negotiations. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar.

Ivorian presidential advisor Desire Tagro said Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore was in an ideal position to mediate the conflict. He says he knows the players well, and has proven his mediation skills recently in Togo.

Tagro was part of a presidential delegation in Ouagadougou meeting with Mr. Compaore, along with high-ranking rebels.

This is part of an initiative launched by Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, seeking what he called direct dialogue with the rebels, who hold more than half of Ivory Coast.

Mr. Gbagbo has previously accused Mr. Compaore of being behind the rebellion. Many of the rebel leaders have homes in Ouagadougou.

Mr. Gbagbo has also said international mediation efforts have failed to reunite Ivory Coast.

Rebels say they will not disarm, until many northerners who say they are considered second-class citizens in the world's leading cocoa producer are given nationality papers and voting cards.

Elections have already been delayed twice, while thousands of U.N. peacekeepers and a French rapid reaction force have manned a buffer zone separating the north from south.

The latest U.N. Security resolution for Ivory Coast, 1721, has been largely ignored.

A national unity prime minister, Charles Konan Banny, was given expanded powers to organize national identification and disarmament schemes before scheduled October elections, but little progress has been made.

An opposition leader Kandia Camara tells VOA time keeps on passing without progress, while Ivorians suffer.

"Our hope is that this dialogue starts and ends at the end of February," she said.

She says she also hopes the talks will be in line with international efforts.

"There is a resolution, 1721, and in that resolution, there are some steps which have to be done," she said. "The main aim is the election at the end of this year. So we have to do our best to give the papers to all the Ivorians who can vote. And we have to make our best so that the warriors, if I can call them like that, put down the guns and we go to elections so that all the Ivorians will choose the person they want to be the president of Ivory Coast, so that peace can come again."

Rebel leader Guillaume Soro says he wants to make sure renewed dialogue is transparent and in line with the U.N. resolution.

Rebels accuse Mr. Gbagbo of blocking reforms, saying he is afraid he would lose a free and fair election. The two main opposition leaders in Ivory Coast were barred from the vote Mr. Gbagbo won, in conditions he himself called "chaotic", against a military ruler in 2000.