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Ivory Coast Rebels Want UN Presence at Talks - 2004-06-28

Rebels in Ivory Coast say they will only take part in renewed dialogue with President Laurent Gbagbo if officials from the United Nations also participate. Mr. Gbagbo has called a meeting for Tuesday in an effort to revive the stalled peace process.

One of the rebel political leaders, Louis Dacoury-Tabley, says U.N. officials from the peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast need to be present at every meeting involving the opposition, rebel groups and President Gbagbo.

He said without this presence, Ivorian political parties will continue, in his words, turning round and round without progress. Mr. Dacoury-Tabley made the statement at a news conference late Monday in Abidjan.

U.N. officials had no immediate response.

The French-brokered power-sharing peace accord signed 18 months ago remains unfulfilled, with opposition parties and rebel groups accusing Mr. Gbagbo of blocking its implementation. The opposition and the rebels have left Mr. Gbagbo's national unity government. The peace deal would give voting and nationality rights to many people in northern Ivory Coast who are now considered foreigners.

The new rebel demand for U.N. participation in the talks comes as Mr. Gbagbo has invited the opposition and rebels to a meeting on Tuesday. Opposition spokesman Alphonse Dje Dje Mady says even if the rebels don't show up, other opposition leaders will.

He said the opposition is now ready to go, in his words, as far as hell to find peace for Ivory Coast. He says before pulling out of the government the opposition presented a list of grievances in March, after security forces violently repressed a pro-peace march in Abidjan.

Among its grievances, the opposition says it wants Mr. Gbagbo to ensure security for its leaders in government-held southern Ivory Coast and to reinstate three ministers who were fired by the president, including the leader of the northern-based rebels, Guillaume Soro.

Mr. Gbagbo's ruling party also held a news conference Monday, saying the peace process is going forward but that not all provisions of the peace deal should be accepted because they contradict the Ivorian constitution.

Ivory Coast has been split since the insurgency started in September 2002, but French and United Nations troops have protected the shaky peace deal for more than a year.