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Ivory Coast Rebels and Political Parties Remain Divided - 2004-07-29

An African summit on peace in Ivory Coast opened Thursday on a sour note. While U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged all parties at the summit to compromise, members of the rebel faction, New Forces, and supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo appeared unwilling to budge from their positions. Terms of the so-called Marcoussis peace agreement and the question of disarmament are among the issues under debate.

Sidiki Konate, a spokesman for the New Forces rebels who control the north of Ivory Coast, said the government of President Gbagbo must move first in implementing the 19-month-old peace agreement.

"The question of identification, we have to find a solution, the problem of nationality, the problem of the people who want to be elected the candidate," he said. "That means the article of our constitution has to be voted now, according to what Marcoussis agreement says."

But, the leader of the pro-government group, the Lady Patriots, Genevieve Bro Grebe says her group considers the disarmament of the rebels as the most important issue.

"We came here to lobby for disarmament, that's all," she said. "Disarmament, so that we can have peace. Without disarmament, we can't have peace."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is chairing the summit, urged both the rebels and the government to be flexible.

"It is extremely important that the leaders who are coming here put their nation first, and come determined to patch up their differences, to forget individual ambitions and to think of the people in the nation," he said.

The peace agreement signed in January 2003 was never implemented and the power-sharing government collapsed in May. The rebels and the president have not met face-to-face since then.