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Ivory Coast Rebels, Government Agree to Disarmament Date

The government and rebels in Ivory Coast have agreed to begin disarming their troops by December 22 before integrating them into a new national army.

Government officials said Thursday that President Laurent Gbagbo and rebel leader-turned-Prime Minister Guillaume Soro reached the agreement two days ago in talks in Burkina Faso.

Sources close to the talks say there are still issues regarding the disarmament to be worked out. For one, rebels want to keep the ranks they have given themselves when the new national army is formed. There is also uncertainty about how many low-level rebels will be disarmed.

Thursday's announcement was made in the northern Ivorian city of Korhogo where President Gbagbo began a three-day visit Wednesday.

This is the first time Mr. Gbagbo has traveled so far north since the 2002 conflict that divided Ivory Coast into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south.

The Ivorian leaders signed a peace accord in March, brokered by Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore.

Burkina Faso's Foreign Affairs Minister Djibril Bassole said earlier this week the two sides agreed to hold elections during the first half of 2008, but that election officials are still working out logistics.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.