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Ivory Coast Rebels Ready for Peace Talks in Paris

Rebels in Ivory Coast are preparing for this week's start of peace negotiations in Paris, but one insurgent faction is refusing to sign a cease-fire agreement ahead of the talks.

Two rebel factions based in western Ivory Coast had been expected to go to nearby Togo to sign a cease-fire agreement to formally end hostilities before the Paris meeting.

The Movement for Peace and Justice, one of the factions in Ivory Coast's nearly four month old conflict, said Sunday it would not sign the cease-fire agreement. Rebel leaders said it was not clear to them whom they would be signing the truce with, and they said they did not understand why the signing should be in Togo, not Ivory Coast.

Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema had asked that the signing be held in Togo. Mr. Eyadema was chosen by the regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States, in October to mediate the conflict. He had hosted an earlier round of peace talks that ended in failure last month. Diplomats say he is hoping to retain his part in the peace process by having the cease-fire signings in his country.

Ivory Coast's main rebel faction, the northern-based Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, signed a truce with the government in October. The other western-based group, the Ivorian Popular Movement of the Far West, has said it remains committed to formalizing a cease-fire before the start of the Paris talks on Wednesday.

Despite their refusal to sign a truce, rebels with the Movement for Peace and Justice say they remain committed to the peace process, and will attend the talks in Paris.

Leaders of the group insist a cease-fire should be signed under the auspices of the former colonial power, France, which is brokering the Paris talks. France currently has more than 2,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast to protect French nationals, and prevent a rebel advance on the main city, Abidjan.

The western-based factions verbally agreed last week to stop their attacks against French peacekeepers. The Ivory Coast government said no hostilities had been reported as of Saturday.