There is confusion over the start of Ivory Coast's long-awaited process to provide identity documents to millions of residents who do not have them.  The identification process is a crucial step before elections can be held in October.

Justice Minister Mamadou Koné announced Wednesday that everything is in place to ensure that everyone who was born in Ivory Coast, but is still without identity documents, can have a legal existence in the state.

He said this is an essential step to allow everyone to take part in a civil state.

He said, there is a huge proportion of people in Ivory Coast, who exist physically.  He said, they have no legal existence, and, he said, that is something that needs to change.

Everyone born in Ivory Coast, who is over the age of 13, is entitled to be issued with what effectively replaces a birth certificate.  But only those with at least one Ivorian parent are eligible for Ivorian citizenship, and, with that, the right to vote.

Applicants will have to bring credible witnesses to verify their identity, and provide documents proving who their parents are.  These will be reviewed by magistrates at makeshift courts set up for the identification process.

At Abobo, one of three such sites in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's biggest city, city official Felix Demoei said he was told the process was to begin, but that no magistrates had arrived.

Government officials say preparations are still under way, and many of the magistrates are traveling, to set up the makeshift courts.

The rebel New Forces, who took control of the north of Ivory Coast in 2002, have made the identification process a condition for disarmament.  They hope the identification process will ensure more representative electoral lists.

President Laurent Gbagbo's supporters say they fear the rebels will try to gain Ivorian citizenship for thousands of foreigners born in Ivory Coast.

Of the estimated 3.5 million people in Ivory Coast without identity papers, many were born to migrant workers, who came from Burkina Faso and Mali to work on the cocoa, coffee and cotton plantations.

Minister Koné said he was aware of the concern, and urged magistrates to be sure of people's origin, before issuing documents stating someone's nationality.

He said, "We have to be vigilant, but we also have to be fair."  He said, magistrates must not give someone a certificate of nationality if they do not merit it.

He also said there will be separate days on which Ivorians and foreigners will be able to apply for documents, in order to further reduce the risk of fraud.

Meanwhile, both parties have committed themselves to disarming.  Another deadline on this has been set for this month, though previous deadlines have often been missed.