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Ivory Coast President's Inactivity Fanning Flames of Tension, says PM - 2003-08-20

Ivory Coast's Prime Minister, Seydou Diarra, said the president's failure to make key government appointments is contributing to the continuing tensions in the country.

It has been more than six months since the government and rebels signed a reconciliation agreement, but the terms of the accord have not been fully implemented.

In his first speech to the nation on the matter late Tuesday, Prime Minister Seydou Diarra said that the failure by the president to make appointments to the key positions of defense and security is contributing to the fragility of the reconciliation process.

The prime minister's comments indirectly blame President Gbagbo who is seen by both the prime minister and rebel leaders to be dragging his feet on making permanent appointments to the two key posts, which are currently filled with interim candidates of his choosing.

Rebels continue to hold the north of the Ivory Coast. They have been kept away from the capital in the south by an international peacekeeping force led by France.

The prime minister said the reunification of the country under the administration of the central government was essential to national security.

But there is tension in the south of the country. Police maintain road blocks throughout the commercial capital Abidjan, where last week a taxi driver was shot dead for driving away after failing to pay an on-the-spot fine. The incident has provoked a number of protests and strikes by public transport workers.

Ivory Coast was until recently 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 have destroyed that image. French military assistance is deemed essential to the maintenance of the current peace.