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Ivory Coast President Warns of Instability in West Africa - 2003-08-01

Ivorian Prime Minister Seydou Diarra has called for international support to help end the fighting in Liberia, but said that the crisis in Monrovia must be resolved on a regional level. Mr. Diarra spoke to reporters in the French capital at the end of a trip to the United States and Europe to drum up support for his own, conflict-torn country.

Prime Minister Diarra said the fighting in Liberia was a West African problem, which should be resolved by West Africans. He expressed optimism that regional peacekeepers, who are expected to begin arriving to Monrovia on Monday, will help end the fighting.

Mr. Diarra warned that instability is spreading in West Africa. It had already hit Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia, he said, and may eventually touch southern Senegal as well. He said roving gangs of armed young fighters are responsible for the unrest. He said local governments, helped by the international community, must put a stop to it.

Mr. Diarra spoke at the end of a three-day visit to Paris where he talked to French President Jacques Chirac. He said his trip to New York, Brussels and Paris was partially aimed at shoring up political and economic support for the Ivorian peace process.

He expressed optimism that the French business community would return to the Ivory Coast, after fleeing the West African country during the recent unrest.

Mr. Diarra said he is optimistic about his own country's future. Not only had government troops and rebels signed a peace agreement last month, ending Ivory Coast's 10-month civil war, Mr. Diarra said, but the country's politicians were slowly becoming committed to peace and reconciliation.

Still, he said, French and African peacekeeping forces should remain in the country, to shore up public confidence and help rebuild the country's army.