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Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 12:13 GMT
Genocide warning in Ivory Coast
Rebel check-point near Mali border
MPCI rebels control the northern half of Ivory Coast
A Belgian lobby group has warned of a possible genocide in Ivory Coast.

Prevention Genocides is calling for the immediate deployment of an international police force to stop the mass killing of civilians following the discovery of mass graves and a wave of ethnically motivated murders.

The group is also urging the Ivorian authorities to investigate all the crimes committed in the country since an armed uprising by soldiers three months ago.

The warning comes as an emergency summit is being held on Wednesday in the latest attempt to prevent all-out war in Ivory Coast.

'Inadequate'

The former colonial power, France, which has been trying to save a truce that was broken recently in the west of the country, is expanding its peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast to 2,500 soldiers.

French soldier in Ivory Coast
French reinforcements have arrived to 'enforce' peace

But the Belgian lobby group says this is inadequate because most killings are taking place away from the battlefields.

The Ivorian Government is fighting rebels who have taken control in the north of the country.

Weeks of peace negotiations sponsored by the regional body Ecowas have made little progress.

Several West African leaders, including the chief mediator, Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, are reported not to be attending the talks scheduled to take place in Senegal on Wednesday, sending ministers instead.

Relief agencies have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis if the conflict remains unresolved.

New rebel groups

The current chairman of Ecowas, Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, has stressed that the legitimacy of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo cannot be challenged.

Ivorians hoping to join army
Both sides have been recruiting
However the rebels accuse Mr Gbagbo's administration of discriminating against northern Muslims, and insist he step down and calls fresh election - a demand he rejects out of hand.

Last week a spokesman for the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast (MPCI), Guillaume Soro, accused the French troops of deviating from their peacekeeping mission, and demanded their withdrawal.

New rebel factions have recently emerged in the west of the country.

At least 400 people have been killed and 250,000 displaced by the worsening war in Ivory Coast - half to neighbouring countries.

Until recently Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producer and a key regional transportation hub - was regarded as one of the most prosperous countries in West Africa.


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12 Dec 02 | Africa
09 Dec 02 | Africa
08 Dec 02 | Africa
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