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Ivory Coast Rebels Reject Call to Lay Down Weapons

Rebels in Ivory Coast are rejecting President Laurent Gbagbo's calls for them to lay down their weapons.

A rebel spokesman, Tuho Fozie, said insurgents remained open to negotiations but would not disarm because, he said, they do not trust President Gbagbo's intentions.

In a speech broadcast late Tuesday, the Ivorian leader said he was willing to engage in peace talks - but only if the rebels laid down their weapons first. Mr. Gbagbo made his offer after he came under heavy international criticism for refusing to sign a ceasefire agreement recently.

Rebels this week withstood a government offensive against their stronghold in Bouake - Ivory Coast's second largest city.

The insurgents said they were receiving reinforcements from other parts of the rebel-held north and were preparing a new counter-offensive.