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Compaore Urges Ivorians to Move Toward Presidential Poll

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré visited Ivory Coast this week. Mr. Compaoré is leading regional efforts to organize the country's much-delayed presidential elections.

During his four-day visit, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaoré has urged Ivorians to continue moving towards the presidential poll, now slated for November 29. The vote, which has been postponed several times since 2005, is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict in the once stable West African nation.

This trip is Mr. Compaoré's first visit to Ivory Coast since civil war cut the nation in half in 2002 after rebels attempting to overthrow President Laurent Gbagbo took control of the northern part of the country. Burkina Faso borders Ivory Coast to the North, and Mr. Compaoré, an active mediator in regional conflicts, was instrumental in bringing an end to the crisis and restoring peace to his country's conflict-ridden neighbor.

Mr. Compaoré brokered the Ouagadougou peace deal in March 2007 that extended President Gbagbo's mandate in power while appointing rebel leader Guillaume Soro as prime minister in a power-sharing agreement. Ivory Coast has since missed deadlines for presidential elections set by the peace accords of 2007 and late 2008. The country, though now at peace, remains tense and fractured.

Addressing the Ivorian parliament Thursday, Mr. Compaoré assured Ivorians that they could count on the continued support of Burkina Faso.

In a few weeks, he says, your country will have succeeded in organizing presidential elections, an essential step in the restoration and consolidation of democracy. He says he has faith in the ability of Ivorians to carry out a free and transparent election as part of the political accord of Ouagadougou.

Yet, as Mr. Compaoré arrived in the country Tuesday, Ivory Coast's election commission confirmed that it had missed a September 15 deadline for publishing voter lists, a setback that many fear could once again delay the presidential polls. Financial problems and voter registration issues, particularly issues of nationality and voter eligibility, have already prompted Ivory Coast to push back the election several times since 2005.

In Thursday's speech, Mr. Compaoré called on the National Assembly itself, as a forum of debate, to play an integral role in restoring democracy to the country.

He says it is the responsibility of the parliament and its members to make this assembly a sanctuary of freedom and democracy that respects pluralism and the rights of the opposition. He says it should also be emphasized that in situations of crisis and emerging from crisis, the role of parliament and its members is crucial in achieving and maintaining peace. He says he is convinced that parliament's role will be decisive in the building of a stronger Ivory Coast.

In his speech, Mr. Compaoré also called for greater cooperation between the two countries to integrate their electricity networks, revitalize the Port of Abidjan and improve road and rail transportation between the two countries. He thanked the Ivorian people for, what he called, their "invaluable support" during the devastating floods that have hit Burkina Faso since July, leaving more than 150,000 people homeless.

Mr. Compaoré closed his speech saying "Long live the cooperation between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Long live the friendship between our people."

Mr. Compaoré is spending Friday, the last day of his visit, meeting with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan.