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Ivorian Leader, Opposition Delegation Discuss Reconciliation, Political Prisoners

FILE - FPI leader Pascal Affi Nguessan, shown campaigning last October in Gagnoa, Ivory Coast, says his delegation's meeting with President Alassane Ouattara on Jan. 21, 2016, produced "real progress" toward resolving differences with the government.

The leader of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front said he saw "real progress" in his meeting of more than three hours Thursday with Ivory Coast's president.

Pascal Affi Nguessan, who spoke to reporters after his delegation's session with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, said he saw "a political will to settle all problems related to the post-electoral crisis" in Ivory Coast.

In 2010 and 2011, the results of the presidential elections were disputed and supporters of Ouattara clashed with those of the Ivorian Popular Front, or FPI, which was then led by the president at the time, Laurent Gbagbo. At least 3,000 people died in five months of violence, which ended when Gbagbo was arrested and put in jail. He is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court.

Thursday’s meeting was requested by the FPI, mainly to discuss the release of the remaining political prisoners taken during that post-electoral crisis.

On that, too, Affi Nguessan said progress was made. "The principle of their release was agreed on," he said.

FPI spokeswoman Agnes Monnet said such issues were key to establishing a sustainable peace in Ivory Coast.

"When it comes to national reconciliation, it has always been linked to the problems of the post-electoral crisis," she said.

Other subjects discussed included the return of the remaining refugees and the unfreezing of the assets of some of FPI's executives.

But not all FPI views were represented at this meeting. Since last year, the party has been experiencing a deep internal crisis, which led a section of Gbagbo supporters to break away from the party and boycott the elections. To them, no talks are possible prior to the release of Gbagbo, whereas the section of the FPI led by Affi Nguessan has been willing to enter political discussions.

Monnet said another meeting between government and opposition officials might happen in the next few weeks.

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