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Disarmament Committee Officially Inaugurated by Ivory Coast PM - 2003-09-10

A committee charged with the disarmament of former rebels in Ivory Coast has been officially inaugurated by Prime Minister Seydou Diarra. But former rebel leaders insist they will not give up their arms until the president makes permanent appointments to the key defense and security ministerial posts.

The Committee for the Reunification of Ivory Coast was set up to help bring back together a country split in two after a rebel insurgency last September. Central to that reunification is a program to disarm the former rebels.

The committee will be made up of five representatives from both the national armed forces of Ivory Coast, which includes the police and army, and the so-called New Forces - the former rebels. The committee is also to receive impartial assistance from France and unspecified west African nations.

Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, who will preside over the committee, will be assisted by, among others, the ministers of Defense and Security.

But the former rebels insist they will not lay down their arms until permanent appointments are made to the key Defense and Security ministerial posts. They say that, under the peace accord, they have a say in the appointments.

Those posts have been held by President Laurent Gbagbo's interim appointees from his own power circle.

After an uprising last September, a French-mediated peace deal brought rebel leaders into a government of reconciliation. Part of the peace agreement was a commitment to a program of disarmament.

Disarming the former rebel fighters, who still control northern Ivory Coast, is considered essential to restoring stability to the country.