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Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 11:48 UK

Ivorian voter registration halted

Angry residents hold IDs as they wait outside a registration office in Ivory Coast, 14 October 2008
In recent days people have been queuing from 4 o'clock in the morning

Ivory Coast has temporarily suspended registering voters after confusion over what ID documents are acceptable.

Elections due on 30 November are a key part of the peace process to end a crisis which began six years ago when rebels seized the north of the country.

The question of whether immigrants qualify as Ivorian citizens was at the heart of the 2002 armed conflict.

The polls have not been officially postponed, but officials say it will be impossible to hold them on time.

The BBC's John James says the identification process has started too late to make November elections possible and too early for staff barely trained to use the equipment.

Around nine million voters are supposed to go through the identification process, but so far less than one million have registered.

A peace deal in March 2007 reunited Ivory Coast and made former rebel leader Guillaume Soro prime minister in a power-sharing government with President Laurent Gbagbo.

Staff to double

There is speculation in the local media that the elections will most likely be held in the first half of 2009.

The government says officials will be trained and registration centres are expected to re-open next Tuesday.

We need to make sure we don't make a mess of the electoral census and the issuing of new identity cards
Sindou Meite
Prime minister's spokesman

Over the last few weeks many of the centres have been closed because of strikes or lack of security.

A force including former rebels and government forces has failed to turn up at registration centres to provide security, our reporter says.

The prime minister's office said the number of people working in the registration centres will double or triple to reduce the long waiting times.

Mr Soro's spokesman said the current period is the most delicate part of the peace process.

"We need to make sure we don't make a mess of the electoral census and the issuing of new identity cards... the date of the presidential election is not an issue," Sindou Meite told the BBC.

In the past, many northerners said they were discriminated against by being denied Ivorian nationality.

"The war started with disputes about identity. This tragedy came about because the country was trying to find an answer to the question 'Who is Ivorian?'.... That's the Ivorian crisis in a nutshell," Mr Meite said.

When registration resumes on Tuesday, security forces from the joint military command centre should be in place, he said.


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