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Former Ivorian Rebel Calls for Arms Embargo - 2003-08-22

A top Ivorian rebel turned cabinet minister wants an arms embargo imposed on Ivory Coast amid growing rumors of coup plots in the country.

The ex-rebel leader and now communications minister, Guillaume Soro, whose fighters seized more than half the country last year, wants the international community to declare an arms embargo on Ivory Coast.

Mr. Soro made the call for such an embargo after accusing pro-government forces of making massive arms purchases. Mr. Soro also said that unless the deadlock in the peace negotiations was resolved, rumors of coup plots would continue.

The number of heavily armed soldiers has increased on the streets of Abidjan this week as the rumors of coup conspiracies gather momentum.

The war in Ivory Coast was formerly declared over on July 4, when the coalition government was set up in accordance with the Marcoussis peace accord signed in France in January.

This week, Ivorian Prime Minister Seydou Diarra conceded that the peace process was at a standstill over the failure to make appointments to the key posts of defense and security. For this, the rebels are accusing President Laurent Gbagbo of failing to adhere to the terms of the January peace deal.

Rebel leaders have returned to their regional strongholds and refused to take part in the coalition government until the defense and security posts are filled.

This week the prime minister reiterated the government's promise to take back into the army any deserters during the uprising of last year, in accordance with a national amnesty.

Mr. Diarra also called for the disbanding of militias and other armed groups. But according to the most recent quarterly United Nations report on Ivory Coast, armed factions that oppose the Marcoussis peace deal are regrouping.