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Special ECOWAS Meeting Aims to Help Faltering Ivory Coast Peace Process - 2003-11-10

Five heads of state from the West African economic group ECOWAS, will be meeting Tuesday in Ghana to try to help restore the faltering peace process in Ivory Coast.

Organized and hosted by President John Kufuor of Ghana, this special ECOWAS meeting has been billed as a review of the security situation in West Africa.

First on the agenda, will be the ongoing crisis in neighboring Ivory Coast.

Ghanaian Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufour-Addo explained the motivation for the special summit. "It appears that the problems in the Cote d'Ivoire have an external dimension, and we think that it is important to see whether that external dimension can be brought under control. The president therefore has decided to call a meeting of some of the countries that have a keen interest in the Cote d'Ivoire," he said.

Mr. Akufuor-Addo was referring to the recent arrests in Burkina Faso of a group suspected of plotting a coup d'etat in Ivory Coast.

Once a beacon of economic success and stability in the region, Ivory Coast has been wracked by crisis since a rebellion split the country in two more than a year ago.

A French-mediated peace deal made earlier this year has been faltering of late. Rebels who hold the northern half of the country have withdrawn from a government of reconciliation.

Getting the rebels back into the government and starting a program of disarmament are central to Tuesday's summit.

The continued troubles in Ivory Coast have far-reaching consequences across the region. Ivory Coast is the economic hub for the French-speaking West African nations, which have seen their own economies negatively affected the ongoing crisis.

Attending the summit will be Ivorian President Laurent Gabgbo, Burkinabe President Blaise Compoare, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and Benin President Mathieu Kerekou.

The host, President Kufuor, is head of ECOWAS, and has used his position to play an important mediating role in this and other regional problems. Mr. Kufuor hosted and played a leading role in the peace talks that brought a peaceful end to the civil war in Liberia.