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Ivory Coast Rebels to be Shut Out of Key Ministries, says Gbagbo Advisor - 2003-02-12

An adviser to Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo says rebels will not get the positions they want in a new unity government that is being formed to end nearly five months of war in the country.

Presidential adviser Toussaint Alain told VOA on Wednesday that it is up to Ivory Coast's prime minister, Seidou Diarra, to decide who will be assigned to each post in the new administration. But he said giving key ministries to rebels will be unacceptable to the government.

Mr. Alain said the question of giving rebels the defense and the interior ministries puts Mr. Gbagbo in a difficult situation. He said recent massive protests by Ivorians who do not want rebels in key ministerial posts cannot be ignored.

The statement by Mr. Alain throws into further question whether a peace accord reached in France last month will succeed in ending a nearly five month old war in the West African country. The rebels have claimed the accord entitles them to the defense and interior ministries.

Rebels with the main northern-based Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, on Wednesday, repeated their ultimatum to the government, saying they will attack if the full terms of the peace agreement are not implemented by Friday.

The prospect of giving key ministries to the rebels sparked two weeks of angry protests by government supporters in Abidjan who said they do not want insurgents in the government.

President Gbagbo has referred to the agreement as a set of proposals whose elements are open to negotiation.

Prime Minister Diarra, whose investiture Monday marked the first concrete implementation of the agreement, continued to work Wednesday to draft a final list of people who will make up the new unity government.

Mr. Diarra met with officials of political parties and is due to travel to rebel-held territory in the coming days to meet with rebel leaders.

The rebels and the government have accused each other of launching attacks recently in the west of Ivory Coast, in violation of a cease-fire agreement.

French forces monitoring the cease-fire said they could not confirm whether any fighting had taken place as reported.