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Ivory Coast Rebels Lobbying for Key Positions in New Government - 2003-02-16

Ivory Coast rebels say they are traveling to several West African capitals to try to drum up regional support for a peace accord.

Rebels with the main group, the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, announced they plan to travel to Nigeria and other West African nations after a meeting with the Ivorian prime minister in Ghana Friday yielded no announcement of a breakthrough.

The rebels are lobbying to get key positions in a new government that is being formed under the terms of a peace agreement reached three weeks ago that is meant to end five months of war in Ivory Coast.

The government of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo strongly opposes giving key ministerial positions to the rebels.

Ivorian Prime Minister Seydou Diarra is due to present Mr. Gbagbo with a final proposal for a new government in the coming days.

In a speech earlier this month, President Gbagbo said he accepts the spirit of the French-brokered peace accord. But he said he would ultimately decide who gets what post. Members of his administration have said the rebels will not get the positions they want.

Rebels on February 7 threatened to march on the main city, Abidjan, if the accord was not implemented within a week.

The rebels now appear to have backed off the ultimatum, saying they did not mean an attack would be immediate.

The war in Ivory Coast, which began in September with a failed coup attempt, has killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and left the country divided. Rebels hold the northern half and the west, while the government retains the south, including Abidjan.

More than 3,000 French troops and hundreds of West African peacekeepers have been enforcing a cease-fire.