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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Ivory Coast rebels agree truce
West African mediators heading for rebel-held Bouake
Mediators want to prevent another regional crisis
The rebels in Ivory Coast are reported to have agreed to a ceasefire after talks with West African mediators.

"They have agreed to a ceasefire and we shall be arranging a signing of a ceasefire agreement in Yamoussoukro tomorrow (Friday)," said Mohammed ibn Chambas, executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Rebels in Sakassou
The rebels want President Gbagbo to quit

Ecowas mediators held their first face-to-face talks with the rebels on Thursday in Ivory Coast's second city, Bouake.

They were flown there by French military helicopter from Yamoussoukro, the capital, and French troops threw a protective cordon around the venue.

The team has already held talks with the Ivorian Government.

Mr Chambas told the BBC that the Ivorian Government had agreed to a ceasefire, as long as it was also adhered to by the rebels, who have captured most of northern Ivory Coast in two weeks of fighting.

The mediation team includes officials from Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.

The rebel negotiating team consisted of junior officers, including the man who has emerged as their main spokesman, Master Sergeant Tuo Fozie.

Demonstration

For a third consecutive day, several thousand people demonstrated in Bouake on Thursday in support of the rebels.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Abidjan to demonstrate their support for President Laurent Gbagbo's government.

The BBC's Kate Davenport in Abidjan says that the demonstrators chanted slogans against France, Burkina Faso and the West African peacekeeping force, Ecomog, which, they believe, have a hidden agenda in Ivory Coast.

The rebel soldiers, who now call themselves the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast, staged an anti-government mutiny two weeks ago and now hold the cities of Bouake and Korhogo and other areas in the north.

Demonstrators in Abidjan
The march in Abidjan was called by Laurent Gbagbo's party

The rebels are calling for the overthrow of President 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 an Ecomog force, which is being assembled in case the mediation efforts are fruitless.

The rebels have warned France against any involvement in the conflict.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Welsh
"The rebels came prepared for a ceasefire"

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02 Oct 02 | Africa
02 Oct 02 | Africa
27 Sep 02 | Africa
27 Sep 02 | Africa
26 Sep 02 | Africa
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