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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 10:21 GMT
Ivory Coast poised for talks
The rebel leader in Ivory Coast's north-west, Dosso (C), and his men are cheered by the crowd
The rebels control the northern half of Ivory Coast
West African negotiators in Ivory Coast have agreed that peace talks between the government and rebel forces will begin this week.

Rebel leaders have already arrived in Togo where the talks are to take place.

Earlier, foreign ministers from the regional grouping, Ecowas, agreed to send a multi-national peacekeeping force to Ivory Coast to monitor a ceasefire between the government and the rebels.

The truce halted four weeks of fighting in which hundreds of people were killed, and thousands more driven from their homes.

Some 2,000 troops from eight West African countries will arrive within the next two weeks to take over from French forces who have been acting as a buffer.

The violence began after a failed coup attempt against the Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Truce

On Saturday, west African foreign ministers and army chiefs meeting in Ivory Coast agreed to send a regional peacekeeping force to monitor the ceasefire between the government and rebels.

The rebels have controlled most of northern Ivory Coast since the start of an uprising last month.

West African leaders are keen to end the five-week crisis which has left the country split in two and is threatening turmoil across the region

They have repeatedly urged both sides to hold talks.

A truce has held since it was signed by the rebels last week.

Atrocities

The uprising has increased long-standing tensions between the mainly Muslim north, controlled by the rebels, and the Christian south, which backs President Laurent Gbagbo.

General Doue is seated with aides at the opening of the Ecowas meeting
Armed forces chief General Mathias Doue (left) is leading the fight against the rebels
The five million or so West African expatriates living in Ivory Coast are mostly Muslims, associated by Mr Gbagbo's supporters with the rebellion and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

Ivory Coast is the richest country in West Africa and for many years, nationals of neighbouring countries were encouraged to go there to work on cocoa farms.

Many Burkinabes and Malians have been attacked or had their houses burnt down in Abidjan and other government-held areas.

Each side in the uprising has accused the other of atrocities.

Burkina Faso says that the peacekeepers should have the job of protecting foreigners, and has warned of the potential of genocide

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Prodger
"Many thousands of refugees have fled, but neighbouring countries want to see this conflict contained"
Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Ecowas Executive Secretary
"We have a lot of political support for this process"

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26 Oct 02 | Africa
25 Oct 02 | Africa
24 Oct 02 | Africa
21 Oct 02 | Africa
18 Oct 02 | Africa
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