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Ivory Coast Rebels Warn of Renewed Civil War - 2003-02-26

Anti-government rebels say Ivory Coast's civil war could re-ignite if the president goes ahead with a plan to install non-rebel bureaucrats in key security posts.

After weeks of delay, the first details are emerging on Ivory Coast's proposed new government of national unity, which is required under a French-mediated peace accord.

Political leaders who have met President Laurent Gbagbo say the new cabinet will have about 45 members, including representatives from rebel groups and opposition parties.

But sources say the rebels will not get the defense and interior ministries they say they were promised during the peace talks in January.

Instead, the plan calls for bureaucrats with no ties to any party to run the two ministries, which oversee the army and national police.

The rebels have reacted angrily to that suggestion. A spokesman for the biggest rebel faction, the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, says if President Gbagbo goes ahead with the plan it will spark what he describes as an explosion of violence.

The Patriotic Movement group controls the northern half of Ivory Coast. It and two other rebel groups have threatened in the past to march southward into Abidjan, the commercial capital, if President Gbagbo does not fully implement the peace plan.

The president has held a series of meetings this week with the new prime minister, Seydou Diarra, political party leaders and diplomats representing the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations.

However, the rebels say they were not invited to meet Mr. Gbagbo. Also absent has been a key opposition party, the Rally of Republicans, led by former presidential aspirant, Allasane Ouattara.