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Ivory Coast President Agrees to Deployment of French, African Peacekeepers - 2003-05-16


Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has agreed to the deployment of a neutral force in western Ivory Coast to rid the area of mercenaries.

The United Nations envoy to Ivory Coast Albert Tevoedjre says President Gbagbo agreed to the western deployment of French and African peacekeepers during a meeting in Abidjan Friday.

The troops will go to government-held areas as well as regions where the situation remains tense. Villagers near the border with Liberia have recently complained of looting rampages by unidentified fighters.

Rebels who control the north of Ivory Coast and parts of the west have already started operations to disarm fighters opposed to the peace process. Mr. Gbagbo had already agreed to make efforts to return security to western Ivory Coast with the help of an international force, but details remained unclear.

Mr. Tevoedjre said the new agreement ensures that Liberian mercenaries fighting on both sides of the Ivorian conflict will now be fully disarmed or chased back to Liberia.

"The U.N. envoy says some obstacles remain on the path to peace, but that clearly all concerned parties are committed to seeing the end to the war," he informed.

The rebels and the army also signed a ceasefire earlier this month covering all of Ivory Coast.

Despite this progress, the world's leading cocoa producer remains divided between areas under rebel control and government-held regions. The two sides in the conflict and opposition parties have yet to agree on finding an interior and security minister in a power-sharing peace government.