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Protesters Urge Ivory Coast President to Resign - 2003-10-04

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have rallied in rebel-held northern Ivory Coast to demand the resignation of President Laurent Gbagbo, accusing him of sabotaging a power-sharing peace deal.

Residents in the rebel-held city of Bouake gathered at a sports stadium to show their support for the rebels, who call themselves New Forces.

One banner read, "Laurent Gbagbo, we are suffering. Under you it is chaos."

Rebel spokesman Antoine Beugre told VOA the leaders of the New Forces will no longer leave rebel-held areas to go to the main southern city of Abidjan.

Mr. Beugre said Mr. Gbagbo has made a mockery of the peace accord signed earlier this year in France. He said the New Forces are ready to continue discussions, but only if they take place in Bouake.

Rebel leaders suspended their participation in a power-sharing government last month, after accusing Mr. Gbagbo of blocking the peace process.

So far, none of the changes called for in the accord has been implemented, including giving Ivorian nationality to many northern immigrants.

Supporters of President Gbagbo held their own massive rally in Abidjan Thursday, calling on rebels to disarm. They also said they would never allow the full application of the peace deal, calling it a constitutional coup.

Ivory Coast has been divided in two, since the rebels launched their insurgency in September last year.