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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 15:52 GMT
Ivorian rebels to rejoin cabinet
Chief of staff Colonel Soumaila Bakayoko (l) and rebel leader Guillaume Soro (r) inspecting troops last month
Several key rebels have ministerial jobs
Rebels in Ivory Coast say they will return to a power-sharing government they left in September.

Rebel New Forces spokesman Sidiki Konate said they would take up their posts on Friday.

The national unity administration was agreed in January in Paris but northern-based rebels and the government in the south continued to squabble.

About 3,800 French peacekeepers and 1,500 African troops man a buffer zone separating the two sides.

The two sides began disarming a week ago.

The rebel spokesman said that a full statement would be released later on Monday.

Divided nation

Earlier, key rebel figure Ibrahim Coulibaly, said from exile in Paris that the New Forces were about to return to the government.

He was arrested in August for allegedly plotting a coup against Mr Gbagbo but has been released on bail.

On Friday he was proclaimed as the head of the New Forces, though it is unclear if all rebel factions support him.

"All the ministers of the ex-rebellion are going to rejoin the government," he said.

"I've spoken with them by telephone. They all agree."

A mutiny last September escalated into a full-scale rebellion following discontent among northern Muslims against President Laurent Gbagbo's government, mainly drawn from the Christian and animist south.

The power-sharing government never reunited the country as both sides continued to argue over who should control the key defence and security portfolios.

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