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Former Ivory Coast President Tours Rebel-Held North


The former deposed Ivory Coast president Henri Konan Bedie is currently making his first tour of the formally rebel-held north in six years. A Bedie spokesman says this marks progress. Bedie's campaign team say they have confidence that the repeatedly postponed presidential elections will take place on November 30 as planned. For VOA, Ricci Shryock has more from Dakar.

On Tuesday a spokesman for Ivory Coast opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie, said they felt security had improved.

Niamkey Koffi says it was Bedie's first trip north since the country's civil war began in 2002 between the government and rebel forces.

"This is the first contact with the people of the north, because of the war," he said.

Bedie spokesman Koffi says he views the trip as another reason to believe the elections will go on as scheduled.

"That means that the process is going on, and we think that the elections will be held on the thirtieth of November," said Koffi.

Bedie, who was ousted in a military coup in December 1999, is a candidate for president in the country's presidential election. He was barred from running in the 2000 poll in which he would have opposed coup leader Robert Guei, who was killed at the start of the 2002 civil war, and current President Laurent Gbagbo.

The country's presidential and legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed, amid peace deals, which fell apart because of delays and mistrust between the warring sides.

Under the latest peace deal, rebel leader Guillaume Soro, became the country's prime minister and came to share power with President Gbagbo.

Many foreign observers say they think it is highly unlikely the elections can take place on time, as disarmament, reunification of the army, and preparation of voter lists and voting cards has yet to begin. Last week, several hundred rebels in their headquarters of Bouake set up roadblocks demanding disarmament money.

But a technical counselor for the Ivory Coast's National Committee for the Supervision of Identification said people in his organization have been working since August 1 to meet the government's goal for elections.

Jean-Marie Akebouae says some election materials are on their way to their offices, and they are making progress everyday.

Akebouae says training of poll workers and preparations for handing out voting cards should begin soon.

Voter eligibility is a tense subject in the Ivory Coast. Rebels say they took up arms to make sure millions of undocumented northerners, many of them the sons and daughters of migrant workers from neighboring countries, would finally get the right to vote.