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Ivory Coast Awaits New Government - 2003-03-12

The new prime minister of Ivory Coast is getting ready to name his new government.

If all goes as planned, Ivorian Prime Minister Seydou Diarra says he will host his first cabinet meeting Thursday in the capital, Yamoussoukro.

He is expected to finally name the members of the new unity government, which has been the source of much debate and disagreement over the last month.

Ivory Coast rebels will take nine seats in the 41-member cabinet. The key question at this stage is who will get the ministries of defense and interior.

That decision will be made by a 15-member "security council" consisting of Prime Minister Diarra and President Laurent Gbagbo, as well as representatives of the rebel factions, the military and members of the main political parties.

The security council began its first meeting Tuesday in a bid to decide on the new ministers of defense and interior. The council was created at talks in Ghana last week, when the rebels gave up their demand for the posts, removing the last major obstacle to forming a unity government.

The council meeting marked the first time President Gbagbo has met the rebels on Ivorian soil since the war began. But doubts about their security kept the highest-level rebel leaders away from the capital.

The chief of the main rebel movement in the north, Guillaume Soro, went instead to Ghana to meet with regional diplomats.

The fragile deal to form a unity government is meeting with some skepticism from rebels and opposition from hardline pro-government supporters. Mr. Diarra has a tough job ahead in trying to make his new coalition work.

President Gbagbo has given the new prime minister sweeping powers for six months, with an option of renewing his mandate afterward. It is a transitional period aimed at restoring peace to Ivory Coast after nearly six months of civil war.