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Thousands of Ivorians Demand Cancellation of Peace Accord

In Ivory Coast, there was another massive demonstration Saturday by thousands who want President Laurent Gbagbo to cancel a peace agreement drawn up last week.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered at central Abidjan's Place de la Republique, renewing their demand for President Laurent Gbagbo to back out of the French-brokered accord.

The demonstration took place as West African mediators were to meet with President Gbagbo in an effort to salvage the peace deal.

The agreement, reached more than a week ago in France, invites rebels to join the government.

The terms do not sit well with many here, including the army and Mr. Gbagbo's large following of students, who say they do not want rebels in the government.

One of the organizers of Saturday's massive rally said, giving government posts to the rebels, who have led bloody attacks and captured half of the country since last September, is - quote - "like giving the keys of the house to bandits."

Another demonstrator, an off-duty policewoman, says she believes the government should just ignore the accord.

She says that as a member of the security forces, she is ready for war. She says the government should not abide by the agreement. In her opinion, she says, the negotiations in France were a failure.

Ivory Coast, once a haven of stability in West Africa, has been rocked by violent protests over the past week.

Much of the anger has been directed against France, the former colonizers of Ivory Coast, which demonstrators accuse of forcing Mr. Gbagbo to agree to the power-sharing arrangement. The Ivorian president announced in Paris one week ago that he had accepted the deal. However, once he returned home he sought to calm demonstrators by saying the accord was nothing more than a set of proposals.

France has called on him to respect the accord. The United States joined that call on Friday, with the White House saying implementation of the accord was necessary to return peace to Ivory Coast.

Rebels say they are ready to resume fighting, if the peace agreement collapses.

Meantime, hundreds of foreigners continued to evacuate the country Saturday. The evacuees include many French.

Employees and families of the African Development Bank flew out on chartered aircraft. Due to the continuing violence in Ivory Coast, the bank is considering moving its longtime headquarters from Abidjan to Tunisia.

On Friday, thousands of demonstrators stormed the Abidjan airport, as French expatriates were catching flights out of the country. French troops had to intervene to control the angry demonstrators, who shouted insults at French families who were departing.