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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Europeans urged to leave Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast rebel leaders
The rebels are saying that they are not ready to sign
Five European Union countries - Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain - have advised their nationals to leave Ivory Coast.

As four weeks of conflict sparked by a rebel uprising show no sign of abating the British Foreign Office said all except those whose presence in Ivory Coast was deemed essential should leave the country using commercial carriers or by road to Ghana.

They urged anyone avoid demonstrations and large gatherings warning "if the situation deteriorates further it may not be possible for the British Embassy to assist with an evacuation".

Earlier Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, who chairs the regional body Ecowas, said the rebels were prepared to sign a ceasefire with the government, but a spokesman for the rebels has told the BBC that they are still not ready.

A delegation from Ecowas was due to meet key rebel leaders on Wednesday to try to broker an agreement, but that meeting is now due to take place on Thursday in the rebel-held town of Bouake.

Long conflict threatens

This will be the mediators' third attempt to get the sides to reach a negotiated solution to the crisis.

The rebels had said on Tuesday that they did not believe President Laurent Gbagbo really wanted peace and that they had enough supplies to fight a two-year war to overthrow him.

Bouake resident walks past corpse of government soldier
Thousands have already fled the fighting

The United States urged its citizens to leave Ivory Coast on 26 September saying "airports remain open, but Americans should take advantage of getting on flights out of the country before they become booked".

As the situation across the country continues to worsen the BBC's correspondent in Boauke says that relief organisations in neighbouring Ghana are discussing what needs to be done to help.

In Bouake people are starting to go hungry, they have no money to buy food and prices have risen steeply.

Our correspondent says the rebels call Bouake their capital now and they mete out summary justice on anyone found looting or stealing.

Angola accused

Our correspondent adds that the uprising shows no sign of ending and it may yet escalate into something far worse.

Mr Wade said there were still a number of problems that need to be overcome, but that he remains hopeful that peace can be achieved.

"There's still a stumbling block over where the rebels will be encamped after the hostilities cease," he said in an interview with the French news agency AFP in Paris.

"President Gbagbo wants them sent back to barracks, but they want to remain in town."

Under the Senegalese plan, a ceasefire and the encampment of the rebel troops would be followed by negotiations between the sides.

The rebels also complain that Angolan troops are fighting for the Ivorian government and that this is a major obstacle to peace.

Angola has denied any involvement, despite several reports that Angolan troops and armoured vehicles were involved in the fighting in Daloa, which government forces retook on Tuesday.

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16 Oct 02 | Africa
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