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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 16:06 GMT
Ivorian leader hugs exiled rival
Former prime minister Alassane Ouattara (left) and Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo
President Gbagbo (right) travelled to the Ouattara family home
Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has hugged his bitter foe, the opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, after he returned home for his mother's funeral.

Mr Ouattara, who has been in exile in Paris for the last three years, said he was touched by the gesture.

The former prime minister fled to France in 2002, shortly before the west African state plunged into civil war.

Mr Ouattara denies accusations that he supports rebels who have control of the north of the country.

Home visit

Mr Ouattara, prime minister from 1990 to 1993 under former President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, arrived in the country on Tuesday night with his wife Dominique after his mother died last week.

Mr Gbagbo travelled to Mr Ouattara's family home in Abidjan to pay his condolences. He stayed for around 10 minutes.

A family spokesman said the former prime minister "felt even more touched by the gesture as after the news of her death the president had telephoned Mr Ouattara personally to offer his condolences".

Mr Ouattara has not said how long he will stay in the country for.

He was greeted on arrival on Tuesday by about 100 supporters, many wearing bright orange T-shirts and chanting his name.

The head of the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party, Mr Ouattara was controversially barred from running for president in 2000 on the grounds that he was not Ivorian in flawed polls that Mr Gbagbo won.

The New Forces rebels who seized the north of Ivory Coast three years ago said Mr Ouattara had been discriminated against.

As part of a South African-sponsored peace deal, Mr Ouattara will be allowed to run in the next elections.


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