Ivory Coast's officials say presidential elections will be held on October 30 as part of the effort to reunify the West African nation that has been divided since a rebel uprising in September 2002.

The announcement Thursday is seen as a major step toward implementing a peace deal signed earlier this month in South Africa.

On Tuesday, Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo announced that Alassane Ouattara, a formerly excluded opposition leader, would be allowed to run in the election.

The popular northern leader was barred from earlier elections because of questions over his citizenship. Mr. Ouattara's candidacy has been a key demand by northern rebels who control half of the country.

Thursday, Mr. Ouattara who lives in self-imposed exile in France, praised Mr. Gabgbo's decision and said he will return to Ivory Coast soon.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.