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Ivory Coast Rebels Refuse to Disarm - 2004-10-12


Rebels in northern Ivory Coast say they will not turn in their arms until political reforms outlined in a peace accord signed in July are fully implemented. The disarmament was due to begin Friday.

The announcement was made a day after troops at the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast fired into the air to disperse an anti-disarmament protest in the rebel stronghold city of Bouake. The rebels report that three people were critically injured In the violence.

A spokesman for the rebels Sidiki Konate told VOA they will not participate in the disarmament process, scheduled for Friday, because the political reforms have yet to be Implemented.

"The disarmament on Friday cannot take place because disarmament is a part of the Accra III program and Accra III says that the political reform has to be made then we can come to disarmament," he said. "And we all see that the date of 30 of September has not been respected by the president, Mr. Gbagbo. So, that means it will not be possible to engage any kind of disarmament process without voting the law."

The Accra III agreement, signed by representatives of all the political parties and rebel movements In Ivory Coast, spells out key dates for the Implementation of the peace accord in the divided west African nation.

Land ownership rights, nationality issues and eligibility for the presidency were to be addressed by the end of September. Only one of the dozen or so laws needed to carry out the peace process was enacted.

President Laurent Gbabgo called a meeting Monday in the nation's capital to discuss disarmament. Spokesman Konate says the rebels will defend themselves if there is an attempt to force disarmament.

"We will not make war, but we will protect ourselves if we are attacked and we think we have a lot of possibility to protect our people, to protect our population and to protect our zone," the spokesman added.

The once stable and prosperous Ivory Coast remains divided more than two years after a failed coup attempt. Disarmament was to have begun last year, but has been delayed several times. Presidential elections are to be held late next year.