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Ivorian Leaders Iron Out Differences

Spokesmen for Ivory Coast Prime Minister Guillaume Soro and former president Henri Konan Bedie say the two leaders have worked out their political differences to help ensure reconciliation in the country. Word that the two had ironed out their differences follows Ivorian press reports that an alliance between Soro and the country's opposition coalition, which Mr. Bedie helped establish, was on the brink of collapse. Phillip Wellman reports for VOA from Abidjan.

The recent disagreement between Mr. Soro and Mr. Bedie centered on the implementation of a peace accord signed in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in March.

Mr. Bedie says the Ivorian opposition coalition known as RHDP believes Mr. Soro, who also leads the new Forces Rebel group, is not working hard enough to implement the accord, which stipulates that presidential elections should be held some time during the first three months of 2008.

RHDP has accused Mr. Soro and President Laurent Gbagbo of delaying procedures necessary for elections in order to remain in power. Those procedures include issuing identification papers to undocumented Ivorians, reintegrating rebels into the national army and disarmament. Both men deny claims they have delayed the process.

The Ivorian press has said Mr. Soro planned to form a new government free of RHDP representation in response to the accusations. The reports said his reason was that the confrontation between the coalition government and the opposition would hinder peace efforts.

But spokesman for the prime minister, Siratigui Konate, says this is not the case. He says Mr. Soro and Mr. Bedie met on Monday to resolve their differences.

"The prime minister said at the end of the meeting that they have to come together to work for the peace process, and President Bedie has said he supports the peace agreement of Ouagadougou," he said.

RHDP spokesman Djedje Mady says Mr. Bedie met with Mr. Soro to ask the prime minister to stick to the timeline set out in the Ouagadougou accord.

The Ivorian electoral commission said in September that presidential elections are likely to take place in late 2008, but the RHDP says it will not wait that long.

Mady says RHDP is demanding that the government implement all procedures stipulated in the Ouagadougou agreement and make up for lost time. He says everything the coalition wants is stipulated in the accord and it has no new proposals.

Mady says he has no details on the private meeting between Mr. Soro and Mr. Bedie, but he says the two men have agreed to put aside their differences and work together.

The meeting came one day after U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visited Ivory Coast and urged Ivorian government and opposition leaders to work collectively to implement the Ouagadougou accord.

Last month, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the pace of the peace process in Ivory Coast, fearing a lack of progress could fuel instability.

The Ivorian government says it is working to implement procedures thoroughly to prevent future violence.