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Ivory Coast Agreement Calls for National Reconciliation Government - 2003-01-24

The president of Ivory Coast would remain in office under terms of an agreement that could end Ivory Coast's four-month civil war.

The agreement between the government, rebel factions and the political opposition, calls for a power sharing government of national reconciliation. The accord awaits the approval of the Ivorian president and other African heads of state.

The agreement was announced early Friday and hours later Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo arrived at the presidential palace for a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac. President Gbagbo did not look like a man who may be about to cede some of his power to his political opponents and rebel enemies. He was smiling broadly. When he left, he blew kisses to the news media and said nothing.

His spokesman had cautiously welcomed the agreement but said the final word on the accord lies with Mr. Gbagbo and the Ivorian people.

Much earlier Friday, the negotiators for Mr. Gbagbo's government, the rebels and the political opposition linked arms and sang the Ivory Coast anthem, in honor of their agreement. They had spent more than a week in closed door negotiations.

The accord calls for creation of a government of national reconciliation that will include the rebel factions and opposition politicians. Mr. Gbagbo will remain in office, but most of the authority will be in the hands of a prime minister, who will be selected by consensus. The new government will plan free and fair elections, and will decide when they will be held. The prime minister will not be eligible to run for president.

The rebels, who dropped their demand for Mr. Gbagbo's resignation and immediate elections, will disarm.

Mr. Gbagbo's acceptance of the agreement could come Saturday, when he, President Chirac, African heads of state and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hold a summit meeting on Ivory Coast in Paris.