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Progress Reported in Ivory Coast Peace Talks in France - 2003-01-19

French mediators say there has been progress in peace talks among Ivorian factions at a compound outside of Paris. Reports say a deal has been reached on defining Ivorian citizenship, one of the most difficult issues facing the government and rebel groups.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said the talks, now into their fifth day, are progressing without deadlock, but declined to discuss details of the negotiations.

The AFP news agency reports that the sides are in agreement on the question of defining Ivorian nationality, reportedly agreeing that the law on nationality should not be changed, but that the political abuse of it should stop.

The Ivorian government of President Laurent Gbagbo has interpreted the law as denying citizenship to those whose parents immigrated to Ivory Coast. In the 2000 elections won by Mr. Gbagbo, several candidates were disqualified on citizenship grounds, including opposition political leader Alassane Ouattara, who is attending the talks outside Paris.

According to an Ivorian newspaper affiliated with Mr. Ouattara's political party, he is demanding a new constitution. He is reported to have repeated his demand for early elections.

The rebels also want new elections, saying Mr. Gbagbo's victory was tainted. The government says it will not hold elections before 2005.

The parties in the closed-door talks are trying to reach agreement by Thursday to end a four-month-old civil war that has killed hundreds and threatens the stability of West Africa. France is reported to be prepared to guarantee the implementation of an agreement.