A top Ivory Coast rebel official has denied growing media speculation that the group is planning to break the territory it holds away from Ivory Coast.
Speaking from the rebel northern stronghold of Bouake, Amadou Kone, said Friday that rebels had no plans to secede and that reports in the local media to that effect had been misunderstood.
He says the January peace deal, known as Marcoussis, must be implemented fully. "We have no plans for secession," he said.
Mr. Kone was referring to reports published by the state media earlier this week speculating that the rebels, known as New Forces, wanted to break away from the central government.
Mr. Kone also confirmed that there are talks between New Forces, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international organizations about possible aid to the northern territory.
These talks followed a four-day economic forum held by New Forces Bouake two weeks ago.
"We want organizations to return to the north with 100 percent activity," said Mr. Kone. A World Bank official in Abidjan, who declined to be named, said the bank is in favor of helping in the rehabilitation of the north. But, he said, it would deal only with the government, not rebel groups.
Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, was widely seen as a model of economic success and stability in West Africa. That image was shattered when the country had its first coup in 1999 from which it has never recovered.