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New Cease-fire to End Ivory Coast Conflict

Ivory Coast government officials say a cease-fire to end a seven-month conflict covers the entire country, following agreements to stop fighting in the west.

Speaking from a convoy traveling toward one of the conflict's frontlines, army spokesman Colonel Ngoran Aka told VOA, all sides have agreed to stop fighting on all fronts of the war.

This includes the west, where rebels have recently been battling some of their former allies, many of them mercenaries from Liberia and Sierra Leone, opposed to the end of the war.

The army spokesman says the agreement was reached Wednesday during talks in Abidjan between the Ivorian and Liberian army chiefs. Ivorian rebel representatives, who are also members of the new power-sharing government, also took part in the talks.

Under the agreement, the rebels and the Ivorian army, as well as French and African monitors, will participate in operations to make western Ivory Coast secure.

The plan also calls for Liberia to send troops into the region, but on the Liberian side of the border.

Wednesday, President Laurent Gbagbo said all Ivorian sides in the conflict are striving for peace.

President Gbagbo says, what is important is that all sides are searching for ways to bring about a solution to the crisis.

The Ivorian army spokesman, Ngoran Aka, says a final communiqué of the new cease-fire agreement will be released Friday.

But not all sides in Ivory Coast seem familiar with the Wednesday agreement. Sidiki Konate, a spokesman for the main rebel group in the country, expressed surprise at the deal.

Mr. Konate says the three Ivorian rebel factions fighting the war have already signed cease-fire agreements with the government. He says his rebel group, the Patriotic Movement for Ivory Coast, has moved into the west of the country to disarm dissident fighters.

The area is also the site of fighting spilling over from a civil war in Liberia.

Other obstacles to peace in Ivory Coast include agreement on how to organize rebel withdrawals from areas they control.

Another stumbling block has been the inability of rebels and President Gbagbo to agree on who will fill two key positions in the Cabinet, the ministries of defense and interior.