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French General: Peace Efforts in Jeopardy if Ivorian Factions Do Not Disarm - 2003-07-24

France's Army Chief of Staff has called on all sides to disarm if peace is to take hold in the country.

General Henri Bentegeat, says the situation in Ivory Coast is returning to normal after a recent civil war, thanks to the efforts of French and African peacekeeping forces. But General Bentegeat, speaking at a news conference in Abidjan , also warned that unless warring factions disarm, the peace efforts in the country could be placed in jeopardy.

Ivory Coast is currently split in two. French forces are maintaining a buffer zone between government troops in the south and rebel insurgents in the north of the country.

A number of stumbling blocks remain to securing a lasting reconciliation, but perhaps the major one has been the inability of Ivory Coast's different political parties to name consensus ministers for defense and security in the power-sharing government.

At a peace deal signed in Paris in January, all sides agreed that ministerial appointments would be made jointly.

Rebels maintain that President Laurent Gbagbo has failed to honor that agreement. Currently two men of President Gbagbo's choosing are filling the defense and security ministries, albeit in an interim capacity.

In a recent news conference in Abidjan, the minister for national reconciliation gave assurances that negotiations to find candidates for the two posts were continuing and that all efforts are being made to find a solution.

Until recently, Ivory Coast was regarded as a haven of peace and stability in West Africa. Declining economic fortunes in the 1990s followed by the country's first ever coup d'etat in December 1999 and the ensuing civil war have destroyed that image.