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Ivory Coast Officials Say Delayed Election Preparations Can Be Completed On Time

In the Ivory Coast officials have begun registering voters for national elections due in two months. Officials say they are working toward that deadline despite persistent reports that the much-delayed vote aimed at ending the Ivorian crisis will be postponed once again. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Election officials in Ivory Coast say they are planning to complete preparations in time for the country to go to the polls as planned on November 30.

Independent Electoral Commission Vice President Fatoumata Traore Diop says voter registration is expanding since it began two weeks ago and has now reached the entire Abidjan area. She says by the end of the week, registration will be extended to other regions and will be completed in all of the country's 11,000 voting centers by the end of October.

Organizers say 50,000 officials are being trained to register the estimated nine million eligible voters. They are concentrating on younger voters, who were not eligible during the previous elections, as well as voters living abroad.

Ivorians hope the elections will help ease years of political, ethnic and regional tensions that deteriorated into civil war in 2002. Although the fighting did not last long, the country remained divided until a peace agreement last year brought northern-based rebels into the government and allowed the return of many exiled opposition leaders.

A major cause of the violence was a dispute over whether immigrants who had settled in the country decades before were entitled to Ivorian nationality.

Diop says the biggest challenge is to make sure all those who are eligible are registered to vote. She says the only way to end the Ivorian crisis is to hold elections that are transparent and open to all. And this will require accurate voter registration lists and proper training for voting officials.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's term expired three years ago but he has remained in power because the elections were postponed several times.

Organizational delays and a lack of funds have led some leaders to call for yet another postponement. But the opposition says any further delays would require renegotiation of the peace accord.

Leaders in the international community, including France and the United Nations which provided peacekeeping troops, have said the polling should go ahead in order to restore democracy.