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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Ceasefire holds in Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast rebel leaders
The deal came exactly four weeks into the rebellion
French troops deploying at checkpoints in the Ivory Coast say a ceasefire aimed at ending the month-long conflict is holding well.

On Sunday the troops began setting up observation posts to secure the accord signed by the rebels and agreed to by the government.

The buffer force keeping the rebels and government troops apart will remain in place until a regional force can be sent in.

Last Thursday's accord has revived hopes that the conflict, in which 400 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced, can be resolved through negotiations.

'Good relations'

Eleven trucks packed with French special forces, five jeeps and an armoured personnel carrier rumbled through Bouake on Sunday, heading south to the capital, Yamoussoukro, to take part in the deployment, according to AP news agency.

The convoy was escorted through the semi-deserted city by the rebels.

"Relations with the French are good, but we just want them to fulfil their role as a buffer force," rebel leader Cherif Ousman was quoted as saying.

The front line runs from the cocoa capital, Daloa, in the west, south of Bouake and toward the border with Ghana, in the east.

Regional force

The French buffer force, deployed at President Laurent Gbagbo's request, will eventually be replaced by West African troops, but it is not clear when the regional force will be deployed, or when the rebels will be disarmed.

Leaders of six West African states, including Nigeria, are to meet in Abidjan on Wednesday to discuss launching direct political talks between the government and the rebels which mediators hope will take place soon.

Rebel Tuo Fozie with Senegalese mediator Cheikh Tidiane Gadio
The truce was a triumph for mediators

Military leaders will meet on Friday to put together the peacekeeping force which will replace the French troops patrolling the buffer zone while the talks take place.

French army officials said on Sunday that the agreement had so far been observed.

"Since the signing of the accord... there have been no incidents of note in the country, which augurs well for the mission," Capt. Valery Putz was quoted as saying by AP.

France has promised to retaliate "very strongly" if it is attacked.

'Looting'

But the army accused rebels of breaking the deal by looting homes at an air base in rebel-controlled Bouake.

"The homes of the air base commander in Bouake and of his technical chief were looted by the assailants," a spokesman for the chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Jules Yao Yao, told national television.

Bouake resident walks past corpse of government soldier
Thousands have been forced to flee

He said that the army reserved the right of pursuit if people and goods were not protected.

France, the former colonial power in Ivory Coast, has more than 1,000 troops stationed in the country to ensure the security of French and other western nationals.


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18 Oct 02 | Africa
16 Oct 02 | Africa
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