Opposition and rebel leaders in Ivory Coast claim President Laurent Gbagbo is hiring mercenaries to stir up trouble in northern rebel-held areas. The president denies the allegations.

The leader of the rebel movement Forces Nouvelle, or New Forces, Sidiki Konate, said President Gbagbo is preparing for war in the northern-held rebel territory of the country. "We have deep information about mercenaries who are now in the zone of the Forces Nouvelle. So, I think we have an objective point to affirm that Mr. Gbagbo is preparing war. Since last Saturday, we decided to mobilize our troops. We are now on the point to take care, because we don't want to be surprised," he said.

Mr. Konate said the alleged mercenaries are from Liberia and Chad, and have been hired to create unrest in the rebel territory. "So, today we find connections between these people and Mr. Gbagbo, and the aim is to create an implosion in the area of the Forces Nouvelle," he said.

A spokesman for President Gbagbo denies the allegations and says the president has been working hard to promote peace in the divided country. He also says he is not aware of any people from Chad residing in Ivory Coast.

The rebels and the Ivory Coast political opposition withdrew from the national unity government after a military crackdown on a demonstration in March turned deadly. The rebels and the political opposition say they intend to discuss re-joining the government, but would prefer to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, instead of President Gbagbo.