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Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 12:18 UK

Ivorian poll date delay welcomed

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo (l) and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro (r)
The election date postponement is being welcomed by all sides

The date of long-awaited presidential elections in Ivory Coast has been put back from June to the end of November.

The polls are a key part of last year's peace deal aimed at reuniting the country after a civil war in 2002.

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says Ivorians have seen enough election dates come and go to treat the announcement with a little cynicism.

Nevertheless, he says, the date is being welcomed as all sides privately felt a June election was not viable.

Ivory Coast split after people in the mainly Muslim north took up arms in protest at measures they said disenfranchised them.

A peace deal last March made former rebel leader Guillaume Soro prime minister in a power-sharing government with President Laurent Gbagbo.

Breakthrough

The announcement of 30 November as the date for the first round of presidential elections follows three days of government meetings on adapting the electoral code, establishing voting lists and producing new identity cards.

Our reporter says it ends the facade in which publicly the government talked about elections in June while behind closed doors everyone knew this was not possible.

The date also seems to be a step forward in the way it was decided, he says.

Instead of being the product of political talks, it comes from a recommendation from the Independent Electoral Commission in a report analysed and accepted by ministers over the weekend.

Although the government has more time to prepare for the polls, it still has much to do, our correspondent says.

Work by a private French company to produce new identity and voting cards is yet to start and disarmament of former rebels in the north and militia in the south is moving very slowly.

But local newspapers have already proclaimed the last few days of marathon talks a "breakthrough" period.

And the sudden burst of effort will at least give the president something to talk about when the United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon visits in just over a week, our reporter says.


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