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Ivory Coast's Rebels Declare State of Emergency in North - 2003-06-30

Rebels in Ivory Coast have declared a state of emergency in northern areas under their control after their leader was attacked while performing his new functions as communications minister.

Rebel field commanders issued a statement saying they were blocking off northern Ivory Coast from the rest of the country.

They also said they were pulling out of a disarmament process scheduled to begin in August.

Rebel spokesman Antoine Beugre said the field commanders are also asking that rebel leaders pull out of a power-sharing government that is slowly being established.

Mr. Beugre said the peace process is being reviewed because the New Forces, the name given to rebels, disapprove of Friday's aggression on rebel-leader Guillaume Soro, who is communications minister in the new government.

While Mr. Soro visited state television headquarters for the first time in government-held Abidjan, several hundred youths close to President Laurent Gbagbo entered the compound, throwing rocks and demolishing parts of the building.

Mr. Soro was rescued two hours later by police, but no arrests were made. The government says it has opened an investigation.

The speaker of parliament, Mamadou Koulibaly, who is also close to President Gbagbo, has called for a campaign of civil disobedience against rebel-ministers until their forces disarm. Rebels say a peace agreement reached in France in January to stop the fighting must be fully implemented before they totally disarm. Fighting has stopped across Ivory Coast since last month.

But the peace accord also calls for several new laws that have yet to be passed, including amnesty for rebels and looser nationality requirements, making it easier for many immigrants to become Ivorians.

One major obstacle to continuing the peace process has been the inability of the different political parties to name consensus ministers for defense and security in the power-sharing government.