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Ivory Coast Accuses Rebels of Attacking Army Positions - 2003-01-16

Ivory Coast's defense minister is accusing rebels of breaking a cease-fire as peace negotiations continue in France.

An army spokesman says the Ivory Coast defense minister confirmed on Thursday that rebel forces had attacked army positions in the west of the country.

The spokesman says rebel forces fired on army positions north of the town of Blolequin, in an area where two western rebel factions operate. Neither group was immediately available to comment.

The government's claim was not independently verified, and previous government reports from the battlefront have sometimes proved to be false.

French peacekeepers say they have no information about the alleged attack, and nearby residents say they have not heard or seen any signs of fighting.

The government's claim, if confirmed, could be damaging to negotiations that are under way near Paris to end the four-month-old conflict.