The national unity government in divided Ivory Coast has resumed work but without northern-based rebels. They are refusing to attend saying progress must first be made to ensure their security and to implement successive peace deals.

Without much fanfare, the national unity government resumed work for 2005 on Thursday in Abidjan.

The government is supposed to prepare free and fair elections scheduled for October.

Prior to the meeting, National Reconciliation Minister Dano Dje Dje expressed hope this mandate will be accomplished, but he said all sides must play their part.

The three rebel ministers, including their leader, Communications Minister Guillaume Soro, failed to show up.

In a new year's speech on Wednesday in the rebel stronghold of Bouake, Mr. Soro gave a long list of reasons explaining the rebels' ongoing boycott.

He said the security of rebel ministers is not ensured in Abidjan.

He said reconciliation Prime Minister Seydou Diarra should head government meetings and sign government decrees rather than President Laurent Gbagbo.

Concerning laws included in the initial French-brokered 2003 peace accord which were recently passed by parliament, Mr. Soro said these are not being implemented and that some of them were changed by pro-Gbagbo lawmakers.

He also said rebels are ready to begin disarming, but that this process must also involve the Ivorian army and militias.

A rebel spokesman, Timithee Ali Baba, explained to VOA this is a key point.

"If the international community wants us to go, to come back to Abidjan, this will depend on the different agreements we are going to have about the process of disarmament," said Timithee Ali Baba. "When this detail will be obtained and when it will be said clearly that these are the different agreements, the different items that we should implement to [start] the process of disarmament we will come back to Abidjan."

President Gbagbo has called on rebels to disarm immediately, saying he has done his part to implement the peace deals.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has taken over the lead mediation role to break the impasse since November, when the army and militias staged attacks against rebel positions, the opposition, French peacekeepers and foreigners.