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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Mediators to meet Ivorian rebels
French troops in Ivory Coast
France says its troops are providing "logistical support"
A high-level West African mediation team currently in the Ivory Coast says it has had talks with the government and is preparing to meet rebels who began an insurgency last month.

Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), told the BBC that the Ivorian Government had agreed to a ceasefire, as long as it was also adhered to by the rebels.

He said contacts had been made with the rebels despite initial difficulties in reaching them.

A man describing himself as a spokesman for the rebels told the BBC's French service that they would agree to a ceasefire if mediators were involved.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people have taken to the streets in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, to demonstrate their support for the government in its struggle with the rebels. Hundreds more were marching in the nominal capital, Yamoussoukro.

On Tuesday, thousands of people demonstrated in rebel-held Korhogo against President Laurent Gbagbo.

Rebel soldiers - who now call themselves the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast - staged an uprising on 19 September against the government and still hold areas in the north, including the cities of Bouake and Korhogo.


Mr Chambas of Ecowas said he had appealed to the rebel leaders to make contact with him and that he was prepared to travel to rebel-held areas to meet them.

He added that there was no clear rebel leadership structure.

A man who described himself as the spokesman for the rebels, Jean Bonfils Agnero, said that the mutineers would be prepared to agree to a ceasefire.

Ivorian rebels in the village of Sakassou
The rebels have warned France to stay out of the conflict
"Of course," he said, "but only under the aegis of the UN, with Ecowas envoys and with the national and international community as witnesses."

On Tuesday, another rebel spokesman, warrant officer Paul Gohou, told the BBC's French service that the rebels did not trust President Gbagbo.

Mr Gohou said that if a third party was involved, the rebels would be prepared to talk and even to lay down their weapons.


Mr Agnero said that the rebels had seized the towns of Seguela and Sakassou from the loyalist forces and that the latter had been taken "without much difficulty".

This was confirmed by Sakassou residents, who told the French news agency AFP that the fighting, on Sunday, had not lasted long.

They said one person had been killed and six injured when a bomb hit a house.

A correspondent for the BBC says the rebels are calling for the overthrow of President Laurent Gbagbo and for fresh elections in which all political parties would be allowed to participate.

All they want, said a spokesman, is to restore Ivory Coast the way it was under the late President Houphouet-Boigny, and to end the domination of the southern Christians.

A BBC correspondent in Ivory Coast says the rebellion is led by former soldiers implicated in a previous coup attempt. Two years ago, while in exile, they founded the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast.

France, which sent more troops to the country on Tuesday, says it is providing "logistical" support to Ivorian Government troops as well as setting up a base for a possible deployment of a West African peacekeeping force, which is being assembled in case the mediation efforts are fruitless.

On Tuesday, the rebels warned France against any involvement in the conflict.

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