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Ivorian PM Soro to Announce New Government this Week

Ivorian Prime Minister Guillaume Soro is expected to announce a new government this week, and Ivorian opposition leaders continue to call for the resignation of President Laurent Gbagbo, who has dissolved the government and the independent electoral commission.

After dissolving the government and independent electoral commission Friday, President Laurent Gbagbo called for Prime Minister Guillaume Soro to announce a new government Monday, but the prime minister's spokesman, Sindou Méité, said the process will most likely take longer.

He says the president wants this process to move quickly, but the prime minister will probably not be ready to announce a new government, complete with names, until the end of the week. He says the prime minister will most likely meet with the president Monday or Tuesday to discuss a new format for the government that he says will give hope to Ivorians, which he says means a smaller government.

The government was composed of more than 30 ministers from all political parties and rebel factions.

A coalition of opposition parties, which includes main opposition candidates Alassane Ouattara and Henri Konan Bedié, says it no longer recognizes President Laurent Gbagbo as the country's head of state and will not take part in the new government.

The opposition accused Mr. Gbagbo of staging a coup Friday when he dissolved the government and independent electoral commission.

Ouattara and Bedie met in Abidjan to discuss the situation. Leaving that meeting, coalition spokesman Alphonse Djédjé Mady said the opposition will not negotiate with the prime minister until the original electoral commission is reinstated.

Mady says to get Ivory Coast to elections by end the March, the opposition believes the electoral commission should be reinstated to continue its work. He says they do not want a new electoral commission of a different size.

In early February, an Ivorian tribunal confirmed evidence of "fraud" in the voter list being prepared for the upcoming poll. Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo had accused electoral commission head Robert Mambé of approving a voter list that contained almost half a million foreigners and called for Mambé's resignation.

President Gbagbo has asked Prime Minister Soro to propose a format for a new electoral commission within the next week.

The presidential poll is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict in the once stable West African nation, but it has been pushed back several times since President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in 2005. Opposition members continue to accuse President Gbagbo of stalling the elections to remain in power.

A 2007 peace agreement created a transitional power-sharing government with Mr. Gbagbo remaining president while former rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, became prime minister.

Last week, Prime Minister Soro suspended the voter registration process over fraud allegations and election-related violence in the western part of the country.

The question of who can vote and who is really Ivorian was at the heart of the civil war in 2002 and remains sensitive in Ivory Coast, which has a large immigrant population.

The New Forces, made up of former rebels in northern Ivory Coast, warn that the election controversy could plunge the country back into civil war. They are expected to meet Tuesday in Bouaké to release a statement on the situation, and observers wait to see whether the New Forces will pull out of the transitional government.

There continue to be protests and demonstrations around the country, and the government has increased numbers of Ivorian security forces in the capital city, Abidjan.

After meeting Monday with Prime Minister Soro, U.N. Special Representative to Ivory Coast Young Jin-Choi urged Ivory Coast to preserve the progress it has made in the electoral process, including the provisional voter list, and release a definite voter list as soon as possible.